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An Indian activist attends a World AIDS Day event.
An Indian activist attends a World AIDS Day event.
Worldcrunch

Monday, December 1, 2014

IRAQ’S GHOST SOLDIERS
A corruption probe in Iraq has discovered that the Iraqi army counts 50,000 “ghost soldiers,” troops that don’t even exist but are paid, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said yesterday, as he continues efforts to end years of graft. Meanwhile, AP reports that the U.S.-led coalition against ISIS launched as many as 30 overnight airstrikes Saturday against the terrorist group in the Syrian city of Raqqa. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, at least 50 ISIS fighters were killed.

“BEGINNING OF THE END” FOR AIDS PANDEMIC
Some 40 million people have died of AIDS during the last three decades, but the world has finally reached the “beginning of the end” of the pandemic, according to a report released to mark World AIDS Day. “We've passed the tipping point in the AIDS fight at the global level, but not all countries are there yet,” warned the ONE campaign, an advocacy group working to end poverty and preventable disease in Africa. As of last year, an estimated 35 million people were believed to live with the disease. Writing in the Washington state newspaper The News Tribune, a woman diagnosed with AIDS 20 years ago explains that “those afflicted, like myself, can and do live full and long lives.”

HONG KONG PROTEST TURNS VIOLENT
Hong Kong police clashed with pro-democracy protesters early this morning in an attempt to remove protesters from a government building they were surrounding. Forty people were arrested and at least as many were taken to the hospital with injuries after the police used pepper spray and batons to remove the protesters, The Guardian reports. Hong Kong leader Leung Chun-ying urged occupiers to go home, saying that those arrested “will have criminal records, which will affect their chances in studying and working overseas.” Read more from the South China Morning Post.

The government in Taiwan, meanwhile, resigned after the ruling Kuomintang party suffered its biggest ever defeat in Saturday’s local elections. According to the BBC, the electorate punished the party pursuing closer ties with China, which still regards the island as a “renegade province.”

$14.3 MILLION
A Las Vegas man who won $14.3 million on a casino slot machine plans to donate all his winnings to charity.

ISRAEL COALITION ON VERGE OF COLLAPSE
Israel’s governing coalition was “close to collapse” last night as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and cabinet rival Yair Lapid clashed over a controversial bill designating Israel a Jewish state, The Daily Telegraph reports. Haaretz quoted a source close to Netanyahu as saying that the prime minister may call for an early election in the next days. A Palestinian woman was shot and wounded this morning in the West Bank after she stabbed an Israeli settler, AFP reports. This comes after a Hebrew-Arabic bilingual school in Jerusalem was torched Saturday by suspected extremist Jewish activists who sprayed racist messages on the walls.

WORLDCRUNCH-TO-GO
As Die Welt’s Birger Nicolai reports, changing behavior among younger generations of Germans will eventually lead to fewer cars on the road — and more women behind the wheel. “The young market is lost to car manufacturers because lifestyles are changing,” the journalist writes. “Fewer people are starting families, for example, and therefore more of them are staying in the city instead of moving to the suburbs where they would need a car. ‘We phone instead of driving,’ a young traffic adviser says. ‘Young Germans don't want to be physically mobile to the extent people previously were.’”
Read the full article, In Car-Loving Germany, A New Generation Foregoes Auto Ownership.

DARREN WILSON RESIGNS
After days of sometimes violent protests across the country in reaction to a grand jury’s decision not to indict the Ferguson police officer who shot and killed teenager Michael Brown in August, officer Darren Wilson resigned. He cited threats against him if he didn’t step down. “I’m not willing to let someone else get hurt because of me,” he told The St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

MY GRAND-PÈRE'S WORLD


URUGUAY ELECTS LEFTIST PRESIDENT
Uruguay’s leftist candidate Tabaré Vázquez was elected president yesterday with voters handing the country’s top job to the ruling Broad Front party for the third time in a row, newspaper La República reports. Vázquez already served as president between 2005 and 2010 and will succeed his ally, the very popular José Mujica, who was barred by the Uruguayan constitution from running for a second consecutive term. Vázquez vowed to govern “without ignoring anybody” and said he wanted “to be able to count on all Uruguayans.” Read more in English from AP.

THE MOTHER OF ALL CHRISTMAS TREES
Rio de Janeiro might not have snow for Christmas, but that’s not stopping the city from boasting the world’s tallest floating Christmas tree, which contains 3.1 million micro bulbs and weighs 542 tons. Watch a video of the unveiling ceremony here.

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Geopolitics

New Probe Finds Pro-Bolsonaro Fake News Dominated Social Media Through Campaign

Ahead of Brazil's national elections Sunday, the most interacted-with posts on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Telegram and WhatsApp contradict trustworthy information about the public’s voting intentions.

Jair Bolsonaro bogus claims perform well online

Cris Faga/ZUMA
Laura Scofield and Matheus Santino

SÂO PAULO — If you only got your news from social media, you might be mistaken for thinking that Jair Bolsonaro is leading the polls for Brazil’s upcoming presidential elections, which will take place this Sunday. Such a view flies in the face of what most of the polling institutes registered with the Superior Electoral Court indicate.

An exclusive investigation by the Brazilian investigative journalism agency Agência Pública has revealed how the most interacted-with and shared posts in Brazil on social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Telegram and WhatsApp share data and polls that suggest victory is certain for the incumbent Bolsonaro, as well as propagating conspiracy theories based on false allegations that research institutes carrying out polling have been bribed by Bolsonaro’s main rival, former president Luís Inácio Lula da Silva, or by his party, the Workers’ Party.

Agência Pública’s reporters analyzed the most-shared posts containing the phrase “pesquisa eleitoral” [electoral polls] in the period between the official start of the campaigning period, on August 16, to September 6. The analysis revealed that the most interacted-with and shared posts on social media spread false information or predicted victory for Jair Bolsonaro.

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