Australians are celebrating. The plebiscite over legalising same-sex marriage has delivered a resounding yes, with 61.6 per cent of the population in favour. The fact that the plebiscite happened in the first place – that the general population was asked to rule on the rights of individuals – was questionable. However, now that the public have spoken (voter turnout was nearly 80 per cent), parliament has a clear mandate to legalise gay marriage. But it will not all be smooth sailing. The plebiscite is non-binding and, though prime minister Malcolm Turnbull has long supported same-sex marriage, the government lacks a parliamentary majority and may need to make concessions. Two bills are being debated, offering different levels of religious protection for institutions and individuals who refuse to participate in same-sex marriage proceedings, ranging from churches to cake-makers. However, gay marriage will almost certainly be legal before the year is out – and, for that, there are long-overdue cheers reverberating down under.
Regime change in Zimbabwe is finally unfolding though it will be some time before we know what shape the change will take. Robert Mugabe has been removed from power and placed under house arrest by the army, though it’s not being called a coup. Those within the country are billing it as a Zimbabwean solution. But is it really homegrown? Beijing has been propping up the country for years and has heavy investments there, and regime change would not have happened without at least tacit Chinese approval. South Africa too is keen to see the end of the Mugabes, fearing the fallout from economic collapse and the many more thousands of Zimbabweans sure to stream over the border if the financial decline continues. Less regime change, more regime recalibration.
Egypt’s flag-carrier, EgyptAir, has signed a letter of intent to buy at least 12 CS300 aircraft from Montréal-based manufacturer Bombardier for a reported $1.1bn (€900m). The deal was finalised at this week’s Dubai Air Show and keeps options open to buy more C-Series planes. Should all options be exercised the EgyptAir purchase could be worth $2.2bn (€1.9bn) to Bombardier. The tentative agreement comes as Egypt’s government continues its bid to revive the national carrier’s fortunes, which have been hit by years of political upheaval following the Arab Spring protests of 2011, as well as a slump in tourism. The airline is on course to buy 45 new planes in total – backed by government funding – as it attempts to modernise its offering and reassert Egypt as a gateway to the Middle East and the Gulf.
The image of sumo, Japan’s national sport, has been tarnished in recent years with reports of bullying and match fixing at the big events. Now, in a new blow, it has emerged that Harumafuji, the popular Mongolian yokozuna – the top rank in sumo – fractured the skull of a fellow Mongolian wrestler, Takanoiwa, with a beer bottle in a drunken brawl in Tottori during an exhibition tour. Although Harumafuji, a nine-time grand champion, has apologised, he has withdrawn from the current sold-out tournament in Fukuoka. Sumo is a notoriously hierarchical sport and its top competitors – celebrities in Japan – are expected to act as ambassadors. The Japan Sumo Association (JSA) has yet to mete out a punishment but the sport tends to deal with its issues in-house. Comments from everyone concerned have been minimal, including those of Takanoiwa’s stablemaster, one-time sumo superstar Takanohana. JSA chairman, Nobuyoshi Hakkaku, a former champion, has said, “We feel extreme sorrow for our sumo fans.”
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