Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte delivered his annual State of the Nation address yesterday with the grim resolve for which he has become notorious. During the speech, he declared that the war on drugs, which has to date caused upwards of 12,000 Filipino deaths, was far from over, and will be “as relentless and chilling... as on the day it began”. While this doesn’t make for comfortable listening – the news is likely to dismay human-rights organisations – the US administration is unlikely to flinch. Duterte’s tough talk about defending his country’s rights in the South China Sea will be welcomed by Washington in light of a more assertive Beijing. Predictably enough, the US president has shown an admiration for Duterte’s strongman-style leadership in recent years. And while there have been a few spats in bilateral relations, a bizarre “salute” to Abraham Lincoln at the end of Duterte’s speech signifies an intent to remain friends.
Londoners will have noticed a disturbing trend in recent months: the increasing number of people sleeping rough in the city. In truth, the number has been climbing steadily for seven years across the country. Yet some revealing statistics were released this week by Shelter, a housing and homelessness charity, which found that more than half of families living in temporary accommodation today are in employment. This represents more than 26,000 families in London who are holding down a job despite having nowhere stable to live. “We cannot allow struggling families to slip through the cracks created by our housing crisis,” says Shelter CEO Polly Neate. “The government must urgently come up with a new plan.” However, in London, it's also down to the mayor to find innovative solutions. Yesterday, not-for-profit organisation Place announced a city-hall-backed project to build modular homes for the capital's homeless. Such schemes are welcome but sadly all too rare.
Cuba took a leap forward yesterday when its national assembly unanimously, albeit provisionally, voted to alter the constitution to recognise same-sex marriage. Mariela Castro, a member of the assembly and the daughter of incumbent leader Raúl Castro, has been heavily involved in the movement and believes the constitutional change will pave the way for concrete legal change too. The subject is up for public debate between August and November, with a referendum to follow. Critics who assume that the public will shoot down the proposal shouldn’t be too quick to judge. “Since the 1980s there has been a process of challenging very deeply set homophobic views in Cuba,” says Dr Helen Yaffe, lecturer in economic and social history at the University of Glasgow. “Compared with the rest of Latin America, Cuba is significantly ahead in this respect.”
Across Japan independent and speciality shops are dying out as more people flock to big shopping centres. But local shops are a vital component of a liveable neighbourhood – especially if you have an ageing population who find it harder to travel. This is why the government is trying to lift the barriers that are making it difficult to open and run a small store in the hope that they will soon return to neighbourhoods. Although the finer details have yet to be released, the first step will be to shorten the administrative process for people to apply to open shops in residential areas, which can often take months. Making it easier for smaller retailers will boost the local economy, renew a sense of community and, we hope, cause a cosmopolitan scene of independent boutiques to flourish throughout the country. Surely that’s an easy sell for Japan’s new nation of shopkeepers?
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