The week at a glance...Americas
Mandatory alimony: The breakup of a Canadian billionaire and his companion of 10 years has thrown Quebec’s obligation-free common-law marriages into question. More than one third of couples in Quebec choose not to marry, opting instead for a cohabitation agreement that lets either partner walk away at any time, owing nothing. But the mother of the billionaire’s three children challenged that law after the couple broke up, and a high court has now ruled that she should get half the assets, just as a divorcing woman would. That ruling could affect the 1.2 million Quebeckers who thought they were just shacking up but now may find themselves financially responsible to their partners after all. Canada’s Supreme Court will settle the matter this summer.
Hog riots: Chilean authorities are struggling to kill and dispose of nearly half a million pigs, after violent protests caused the closure of the country’s largest pig farm. Fed up with the vile stench wafting over their town, residents of Freirina blocked the roads to the slaughterhouse last week. The protest soon turned violent, and after two police cars were torched, the pig farm workers fled and the pigs began to die. This week the government declared a health emergency, closing the plant and ordering the pigs removed. Agrosuper, the operator, said the pigs would have to be killed because it would take 50,000 trucks to transport them.
She speaks for the trees: Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff took on her country’s powerful farm lobby last week and partially vetoed a law that would have allowed clear-cutting. The law, bitterly fought over in Congress, would have let farmers who have already illegally cleared part of the Amazon rain forest to plant crops on that land. About 20 percent of Brazil’s rain forest has been destroyed, but in the past five years authorities have become much stricter about enforcing laws against logging and clearing land. Rain-forest clearing releases an estimated 400 million tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere every year, making Brazil the sixth-biggest emitter in the world.