China is having a terribly bad week

GlobalPost
Damaged cars at the site of the massive explosions in Tianjin on Aug. 13, 2015. Enormous explosions in the major Chinese port city killed at least 44 people and injured more than 500.

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NEED TO KNOW:

Yesterday afternoon or night or early morning, depending on where you were in the world, there was a good chance you were watching a shaky video from Tianjin, China. If you weren't, this is what you missed: scenes of an unbelievable explosion, a massive fireball, and what looked like fireworks rocketing horizontally from the epicenter of it all.

It looked like an airstrike. Or some kind of bomb. But it was in Tianjin, a city of 14 million and one of China's most important economic centers. So it was probably a factory explosion of some sort. But what kind of factory would cause an explosion of that magnitude? What happened?

These are the questions everyone who has seen the videos has been asking themselves over the last half a day. The answers are finally beginning to emerge. The site of the explosion is actually a warehouse. And it is licensed to store a dangerous combination of industrial chemicals, as well as combustible substances like compressed and liquified gas.

It belongs Ruihai International Logistics, and the owners of this company are going to have to answer to a lot of questions in the near future. Aside from the spectacular explosion and ongoing blaze, which has so far killed more than 40 people and injured many others, Greenpeace has warned about the long-term effects of chemical pollution in the area. China's state news said that hundreds of firefighters were still at the scene.

How such a sensitive industrial site was allowed to be built so close to residential areas, in such a massive city, is the next question everyone will be asking. The disaster might be a symptom of lax regulations in a country that has seen tremendous growth in recent decades. It is also the latest debacle for a country whose growth has slowed dramatically in recent months, forcing it to devalue its currency today for a third straight day.

At the moment, China's star does not appear to be rising.

WANT TO KNOW:

Amnesty International is the world's largest human rights organization. Its record on doing the right thing — at least trying to do the right thing — is pretty unassailable. So, you might be wondering, why has it been getting so much heat lately?

Well, basically, it voted to support the legalization of prostitution around the world. You might think that's a pretty controversial and surprising decision. And the group has gotten a huge amount of criticism for it. But Amnesty is not unique for this position. It is not even a leader on the issue. Groups like Human Rights Watch, the United Nations, and even the World Health Organization already advocate similar policies.

Amnesty's decision came after it conducted a two-year survey of social science evidence and sex worker testimony. In the end, it concluded that legalization was the best way to ensure the protection of sex workers. “It’s going to bring a lot of people out of the shadows,” one London-based escort told GlobalPost.

Critics say that few women go into prostitution willingly — that they are either coerced, tricked or forced into it by dire economic circumstances — and that legalizing prostition will lead to more human trafficking.

In its statement, however, Amnesty says that while it now supports legalized prostitution, it will continue to fight against human trafficking and coersion. It will also continue to advocate that countries take necessary measures to ensure that prostitution is a choice, not something women or men are forced into because they lack other opportunities.

STRANGE BUT TRUE:

Littering is a problem the world over. And one small Mexican city just can't take it anymore. It has decided to tackle the issue head-on. Perhaps it can be a global leader in the fight against littering.

Or maybe not. Its idea was to name and shame litterers in the most dramatic way possible. Anyone caught littering three times would be arrested, their mugshot taken, and their picture plastered on a billboard, together with their first and last name, for all to see.

For a lot of people, that level of shaming might actually be effective. But the punishment might also be a little severe. A local human rights organization deemed it unconstitutional. So the city covered the faces up with this message: “We disagree, but in compliance with the human rights resolution we are covering up the face of someone who dirties our city. Every day, we pick up 25 tons of trash.”

What do you think? Is the punishment too harsh? Or do you think litterbugs deserve to be publicly shamed?