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Hello and welcome to the World This Week. I'm Bev O'Connor. Coming up - The cost of global power plays. A misunderstanding, then fear and conflict modern day Modern day crusaders for racial equality. Rosa Parkes and Dr King and so many other folks did their part. It allows me to be where I am today, to do my part. And dowries, abortions and discrimination in rural India. The son's family demands it, they see their unemployed lout of a son, still worth more than the charming young girl he is marrying.

First this week - the dramatic increase in tensions between the United States and Russia, with analysts saying relations are at their worst since the cold war. The key developments - Russia withdrew from a landmark nuclear security agreement and the US pulled out of talks on a cease-fire in Syria. Here's Middle East correspondent, Sophie McNeill. And a warning, her report contains distressing images. President Vladimir Putin plays up his image as the strongman of Russia and he's backing it up with action. He issued a presidential decree suspending a long-standing deal with the United States on the disposal of weapons-grade plutonium. Hours later, the US retaliated, suspending talks with Russia over the continued bombing of Aleppo. International aid groups report hundreds have been killed by air strikes in the past week. Many children are among the victims. The US is accusing Russia of targeting civilians. They've been reduced to either acting unilaterally or supporting the Iranians in dropping bunker-busting bombs on civilian hospitals in Aleppo. It's outrageous. The worst toll has been in rebel-held East Aleppo. This boy was pulled from a demolished building yesterday. Rescue workers said he was the only one of his family to survive. In just the last seven days, there has been at least five attacks by Russian or Assad regime forces on hospitals in opposition areas. Cooperation over Syria was the Obama administration's last hope at stopping the downward spiral in their relationship with Russia. This suspension in talks now marks a clear worsening of ties between the two superpowers. The hostility and mistrust is now real and growing as the situation in Syria only gets worse. Sophie McNeill reporting. To the other side of the world, and tensions with another global power - China. A former director of US National Intelligence has warned that China and the United States risk open conflict over the South China Sea. China is continuing to build artificial islands, despite losing a court case in the Hague. Retired admiral Dennis Blair told Four Corners that Beijing's attempts to control the contested waterway are intolerable. Here's Peter Greste. The South China Sea is one of the most disputed regions on earth. The US has been monitoring China's rapid construction of a number of artificial islands. Two years ago, this tiny sandbar was the only thing above the water line on Gavin Reef. It's now a fully-fledged island with its own harbour. In an interview with Four Corners, the former director of US national intelligence says China's claims over disputed territory are excessive. If the Chinese had their way and the entire South China Sea were their own territory which they could keep the United States and other armed forces from operating, it would be absolutely intolerable for the United States. We're not going to allow it to happen. The US has been running operations to assert its rights under international law, and retired Admiral Blair wants Australia to join them. Foreign Minister Julie Bishop says she's had no formal requests. We're certainly calling for a de-escalation of tensions. We're certainly for a de-escalation of We're calling for no unilateral or coercive action, and our message has been consistent. China says it's willing to negotiate a solution, but last month it also staged military exercises in the South China Sea with Russian forces. The former head of the US Pacific Command says neither China nor the US is likely to shift its position. That means the dispute could escalate. And lead to conflict, yes. Yeah. A misunderstanding and then fear and conflict. Nobody is arguing that either side necessarily wants a war, but political theory suggests that there are powerful forces - both domestic and international - that are driving both sides towards conflict, and that are beyond the control of any individual politician. In July, an international court ruled China's claims to be illegal. The latest satellite images from a few weeks ago show China's construction work hasn't stopped yet. Peter Greste reporting. Ethiopia is the most populous landlocked country in the world with almost 100 million people. It's vast, complex and has been plagued by conflict and famine. Earlier this week, dozens of people died at an anti-government protest. Africa correspondent Martin Cuddihy has the story.

Across Ethiopia, millions of people turn out for the Thanksgiving.Just south of the capital, anti-government protesters joined the crowds. They crossed their wrists above their heads, preventing religious leaders from taking the state -- stage. Police fired tear gas and rubber bullets into the crowd. The ensuing stampede crushed people while others fell to their deaths in ravines. Dozens of those injured in the chaos was taken to hospital, the government has blamed the incident on opposition groups. It follows months of unrest that was initially sparked last year with the government's proposal to extend the capital. The plan was subsequently scrapped at the protests have continued. The government has dismissed the growing international concern. It's using excessive force to silence dissent. After spending four nights in jail for stripping down to their bathers, nine Australian men are free. The group avoided a conviction after an apology letter was read to the judge. South-east Asia correspondent Samantha Hawley reports from Kuala Lumpur. This is celebrity for all the wrong reasons. Nine Australians, all in their 20s, arrived to learn their fate in a foreign court. Jack Walker, Minister Christopher Pyne's staffer, among them. We're vert hopeful we'll take them home, all of them. In court, one of the accused fainted before police were ordered to remove the men's hand cans. -- cuffs. They were charged under section 290 of the penal code relating to public nuisance which carries a maximum fine of $130. Evidence presented including photographs of the group stripping as well as their nine pairs of so-called budgie smugglers bearing the Malaysian flag. Cultural differences and good character formed the basis of the defence. The tourists walked free with a caution and no conviction. The Malaysians are pretty liberal-minded but maybe the majority are quite conservative. They were a bit upset but I think we have taken care of that by an unconditional apology. They'll go home and resume their lives. Will they be able to do that normally after all this publicity? We hope so. The judge told the court the Malaysian flag represents the sovereignty and religion of our country and the men hurt the feelings of the nation. Malaysia, it seems, has made it seems, has made its point clear. The behaviour displayed by the Australians will not be tolerated here. In the end, the most severe punishment was the four days they spent behind bars. Many Australians are drawn to the beaches and beauty of southern Thailand, but few realise just how close they are to a rebel stronghold. A bloody Muslim insurgency in the states bordering Malaysia has claimed more than 6000 lives. Southeast Asia correspondent Liam Cochrane reports.

A peaceful morning ritual amidst the shadow of danger. Buddhist monks are seen as a symbol of the Thai state and so have become a target for Muslim insurgents. Insurgents like this man. He joined the group known as the BRN when he was 14 and rose through the ranks before quitting earlier this year.TRANSLATION: My role as a logistics officer was to find food, ammunition and bond supplies will stop I was proud to be with the BRN. -- bomb.Several tourists were injured in the recent blasts. This insurgent says he was not directly involved but the bombings had all the hallmarks of his group. TRANSLATION: Is innocent people are injured, I don't want that but I had no choice. It was our job to put put the bombs in certain areas to resist the government.Since 2004, the struggle for an independent state has claimed more than 6000 lives. The insurgents often find statuary in Malaysia but across the border, they are hunted by the Thai eye on it -- Thai army and police. It is difficult to to tell the difference between the local community and the fighters.Translation Mac If they are good guys, they wouldn't walk here. If we see three or four men walking through the forest at night, it's not normal. We know they're bad guys.Caught in the middle, the local population. Including this girl whose cousin was shot dead.I beg for an end to the shooting. Hurting people, killing people. We lost so many people already.There are peace talks under way but they are boycotted by the BRN. The violence has, if anything, increased. There are concerned that Islamic State propaganda could find sympathisers here but so far this complicates remained focused on Muslims breaking free from Buddhist nation. Liam Cochrane reporting. The US city of Charlotte, in North Carolina, is on edge following the death of yet another young black man - 26-year-old Justin Bernard Carr. Police now face the immense task of maintaining order while rebuilding trust. North America correspondent Stephanie March travelled to the divided city. And a warning - this report contains images that may be distressing to some people. I have considered myself through this whole deal. A private citizen who is on his way home from work that came across a crime scene of police involved, killing of another man. I was very unhappy. There seems to be no right way to teach my son how to be safe and go about living life as a black man in this world. But there was something about that night. Fear turned into power. Protests over a deadly police shooting. It is setting off a wave of angry protests.We realise again that this was our government, all rights and if we are afraid here, we will never be free.North Carolina is under a state of emergency now after a second night of violence and chaos erupts in Charlotte.I saw that it was my role to go out and objectively show the people as many facts as possible so they could determine what the truth was of what's going on here in Charlotte. A citizen journalist of some type.The oppression of one is the oppression of all! The oppression of one is the oppression of all! (APPLAUSE).We need to take advantage of the diverse groups that are listening and watching right now.Nothing about this has been against individual police officers but do I trust the institution of law enforcement in America? Absolutely not. Do I trust the institutions of the criminal justice system in America? Absolutely not. You would be a full to do that. -- fool. You would be a fool as an American and a black man.Leave no trace of it in your blood. The last people in this place.I am assistant to a public defender. I remember getting hit with a teargas canister and being pushed into the side of my leg. I remember walking through this cloud of teargas.There is a lot of teargas. We are going to find some kind of shelter.The reason why was doing it is quite simple, I don't want more clients, but at what anyone people getting stuck in the system. Not only do I defend people in the court's system, I have realised that I can prevent them from being in the system. We have to take step-by-step by step. To get to 4000 years from now. From my world, Doctor King and so many other folks from the 50s and 60s did their part which really allows me to be where I am today to do my part. What I love is that everyone who is driving by, going to work down the street, right, they get a chance to see this. Undeniable. Every single person who works here is seeing that this is what we can represent. This is how we can rebuild. This is what we can do together. So Braxton and I have - we met at the protest on Tuesday night around after midnight and so, and since that one chance encounter, he and I have been together every night since till 3:00 or 4:00 in the morning, keeping the demonstrations peaceful and showing the world that we are going to do it the right way. Thursday Britain's conservatives are revamping themselves as the workers' party, pledging to restore fairness for all citizens. At the Tories' annual conference, Theresa May laid out her vision for a post-Brexit Britain. Europe correspondent Lisa Millar reports. Britain's second female PM delivering her keynote address. Theresa May was determined to start it just right, comparing Brexit to a quiet revolution. A revolution in which millions of our fellow citizens stood up and said they were not prepared to be ignored anymore. The message for fellow conservatives - value the spirit of citizenship, not just making money. The 17 million Brexit voters might not have been here in Birmingham, but the party's speeches have been about them and for them. Come with me as we rise to meet this moment. Come with me and together, let's seize the day. The pro-Brexit UK Independence Party is taking the credit for getting the Tories listening to the working class and their demands for cuts to immigration. What we want, obviously, is the kind of system that you have in Australia which is applied across the globe. So Australians, of course, are always going to be welcome and if they've got the skills we need, fantastic. But UKIP has its own problems. The leader of the UK Independence Party, Diane James. This was just 18 days ago. Now Diane James has quit and the controversial leader who made the party famous is back, at least temporarily. I keep trying to escape, I keep getting over the wall and running for the hills and before I'm finally free they drag me back. The PM said the country's at a turning point. A once-in-a-generation moment to bring about change. But Brexit has also been a roller-coaster for all of the political parties and the ride's not over yet. Lisa Millar reporting. By the end of this decade, there will be 50 million fewer women in India than men due to an age-old preference for boys and the the impost of dowries. The situation has been made worse by the use of ultrasounds for gender testing, resulting in hundreds of thousands of abortions of female foetuses each year. South Asia correspondent James Bennett reports.

When you run a farm in India, having five sons is an asset, but when only one is married, it is also a burden. TRANSLATION: Three of my sons can still get married, but the eldest one, it is going to be impossible to find a wife for him. TRANSLATION: I never thought it would be this difficult for us to get married. For every 10 boys, fewer than eight girls are born. Family life here in this agricultural part of India remains deeply patriarchal. Families here want a male heir to bring in a wife and she can look after the parents in old age and he can run the farm. The problem is that every family's quest for a male heir is led to a critical shortage of daughters and women to marry. This man's found his wife through cunning more than romance. My cousin told me that one his relatives was trying to find someone to marry their daughter. I reached the house that night and got married. They are finding out this society's focus on boys and the disturbing abortion rates of female babies impose a life-long legacy. TRANSLATION: Abortions are the biggest reason why there is a lack of girls here. TRANSLATION: Everyone is afraid of having girls because of dowry. The tradition of dowries is rooted in the belief that a woman is a burden on her husband and he deserves to be compensated with money or gifts. It makes having a baby girl an expensive prospect. The advent of ultrasound technology offered a way out. Abortion rates sky-rocketed. Dowries and gender testing are both forbidden in India but the bans are largely ineffective. Nearly three quarters of a million female foetuses are aborted in India each year. I don't think it actually is specific to India. I think it is an Asian thing. The boy will probably work and support you in your old age. The boy will be more useful to the family and the girl belongs to someone else as soon as she gets married, she will go somewhere else. That, I think, is the basis of this ridiculous belief. On the outskirts of the Indian capital, I have come to meet Sumitra. Mother of two daughters, the eldest is at Harvard and the youngest is studying to become a pharmacist. TRANSLATION: I am very proud of our daughters. We have worked really hard to make them successful and so have they. All of us, including my daughters have made a lot of sacrifices to reach this stage of our lives. She and her sister value their independence now but accept the inevitably of an arranged marriage. But her proud mother concedes the family may still have to pay if they are to marry. TRANSLATION: Everyone does it. That means we will have to as well, even if it means taking a loan. That is society's norm. The Indian government admits the dowry system is still flourishing, despite being outlawed. Some families demand it. They see their unemployed lout of a son still worth more than the charming young girl he is marrying, so she has to come armed with a bed and a mirror and a branded motorcycle. It is just so annoying. For this doctor, it is deeply personal.

It all began when she married a fellow doctor.

When she became pregnant with twin girls in 2007, she was overjoyed.

During her pregnancy, she says that she fell ill and was taken to hospital.

Only later did she learn she had been given a foetal ultrasound.

These hospital documents confirmed the test was carried out. What does this say?

She refused her husband's demands for an abortion. She is now suing him for conspiracy to kill her unborn daughters and is raising them alone with the help of her parents.

The lack of girls has seen a darker market flourish. Babita Malik lived in a village on the other side of India when one day she was taken. TRANSLATION: There was two to three people taken and it was only when I got to this village I realised I was married. An agent arranged the marriage and was paid to the brother. TRANSLATION: This wedding cost 20,000 rupees.

Trafficking is illegal, but so-called marriage brokers are allowed. Babita has had to accept her situation. TRANSLATION: I didn't know about the lifestyle here. I was a little girl when I got married and came here. How would I have known what it would be like? The Hooder family still hope their sons can find wives the old-fashioned way. Their mother is still calling on local matchmakers but she knows that centuries of tradition will still take generations to change. TRANSLATION: My sons may well remain bachelors throughout their life. They don't have a choice. I don't think there is any solution for this problem. And that ends this program. You can head to the ABC's World News page for all the latest stories, and join me on The World weeknights on ABC News 24. I'm Beverley O'Connor. Thanks for watching. Bye for now.

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