South Africa Rape – President Jacob Zuma has called for “unity in action” and an end to widespread rape across the country during his annual state of the nation address on Thursday, writes Aljazeera. His speech comes days after the rape and disembowelment of a 17-year-old girl who later died in hospital. According to official figures, around 65,000 sexual offences were committed in South Africa last year, but police believe that only one in 36 rape cases is reported.
Catholicism in Brazil — The New York Times reports that the Roman Catholic Church in Brazil is struggling to lure followers back into the fold amid a surge in evangelical Protestantism and secularization. The nation’s 2010 census shows that 65% of Brazilians identify themselves as Catholic, compared to 90% in 1970. The shift in the country’s religious landscape, according to the Times, has caused “deep anxiety among some Catholics about the future of their faith.” And in light of Pope Benedict XVI’s resignation, the Times notes that “he had been expected to visit Rio in July for World Youth Day.”
Shark Fin Harvesting — Chinese demand for shark fin soup is threatening hammerhead sharks and manta rays along the coast of Mozambique, reports the Guardian. Although local conservationists have called for the legal protection of marine life in the southeastern African country, the fisheries ministry seems more focused on one-off profits from shark fin harvesting, notes the daily. The fishing controversy reflects wider concerns that China is exploiting Africa’s natural resources.
Kabuki Theater — In Japan, the recent death of two kabuki masters has called into question the future of the country’s best-known traditional dance-drama, notes the Economist. Revered kabuki performers Danjuro Ichikawa XII and Kanzaburo Nakamura XVII spearheaded its modern revival yet their death has left Japan wondering if the age-old tradition can live on. Only the reopening of Tokyo’s Kabukiza theater in April “will tell if the new generation can preserve this tradition, while modernizing it enough to entice younger audiences back,” according to the Economist.
Airbus Abandons Batteries – Airbus, Boeing’s European rival, announced Friday that it has decided not to use the same battery technology on its new wide-body jet as the Boeing 787 Dreamliner that caught fire last month, notes the New York Times. The airline has begun to inform customers that it will revert to a more conventional battery, made of nickel-cadmium, which is already widely used on Airbus models. The company hopes to be able to stick to its schedule by finishing the first new aircraft, the A350-XWB, in the second half of 2013.
Iranian Nuclear Inspection – U.N. inspectors failed to reach a deal on access to Iran’s nuclear sites during a recent trip to Tehran, reports Aljazeera. The deadlock in talks is a bad sign for the six major world powers attempting to prevent Iran from proceeding with a program that could lead to the production of a nuclear bomb. Representatives from the U.S., Russia, China, France, Britain and Germany are set to meet with Iran separately in Kazakhstan on Feb. 26 to discuss an issue that has already led to four rounds of U.N. sanctions against Iran. Tehran argues that it should be allowed to produce nuclear fuel for peaceful purposes.