The World Today for March 14, 2018



The Shoe is on the Other Foot

In what could be the first case of its kind, a US federal court in Fort Lauderdale is hearing allegations of human-rights abuses brought against a former foreign head of state.

Bolivian ex-President Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada stands accused of ordering the extrajudicial killings of poor, indigenous Bolivians in 2003, when he cracked down on protests against his administration. He then resigned and fled to the United States when he couldn’t bring the protesters to heel. The charges were filed under the US Torture Victim Protection Act, the Miami Herald reported.

Around 3,000 miles away, Evo Morales must have been smiling.

Morales was one of the leaders of the protests that ousted Sánchez de Lozada. Today, he’s president of Bolivia, the first from the country’s indigenous community.

But now Morales is in danger of resembling the strongman he fought against years ago.

Writing in Bloomberg View, journalist Mac Margolis argued that many Bolivians believe Morales is flouting the country’s constitution by seeking a fourth term in office.

In 2016, a referendum to let him run again failed. But Morales argued that limiting his time in office contravened his human rights and the political choices of his supporters. The country’s highest court overturned the referendum. Morales’ approval rating has sunk to 22 percent as a result.

“Bolivians have not always been so worried about democracy and the rule of law,” former La Paz Mayor Ronald MacLean-Abaroa told Margolis. “But ignoring the popular will and insisting upon running again, that really offended people.”

As leftwing leaders in Argentina, Venezuela and elsewhere in South America have lost face, Morales is a survivor, explained Foreign Affairs.

His base of support is strong. He’s made good on promises to bring historically excluded groups into government – including the country’s bowler hat-wearing ‘cholitas’ – and responded to calls by women across the country to acknowledge rampant sexual abuse. He’s also improved the economy, driving Bolivia to even put a satellite into space with China’s help. And his critics are disorganized.

But, as the World Bank noted in a blog post, Bolivia is a poor country facing major problems, including urban congestion stemming from the influx of folks from the countryside into La Paz and other big cities, a common dilemma among growing developing nations.

Morales knows how to unseat a president. He’ll need to do more to keep others from unseating him.



Plenty of Smoke

Another Russian émigré was found dead in London, prompting a police investigation. But so far British authorities say they have “no evidence to suggest a link” to the poisoning of the Russian former spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in Salisbury.

Ambulance workers called the police to the home of Nikolai Glushkov at 10:46 p.m. local time Tuesday, CNN reported, quoting a neighbor as saying forensic investigators did not wear hazmat suits for their sweep of the house.

Glushkov was a friend and former employee of Boris Berezovsky, a Russian oligarch found dead in his UK home in 2013 in what police said was a suicide. When Berezovsky, who’d bankrolled Boris Yeltsin, split with President Vladimir Putin, Glushkov was implicated in a politically charged corruption case.

Separately, British authorities said Skripal and his daughter were killed using a Russian nerve agent known as Novichok, which is believed to be many times more deadly than sarin, and MI5 will probe some 14 suspicious deaths of Russians on British soil.


Finding Common Ground

Italy’s far-right League and leftist Five Star Movement united to attack the European Union’s budget rules on Tuesday, suggesting that their joint anti-EU stance could form the basis for an odd coalition of extremes.

Italy’s March 4 election ended without any party winning enough votes to govern alone. Five Star became the largest party in parliament, with 32 percent of the vote, while a coalition of rightwing parties that included the League gained 37 percent.

On Tuesday, both parties objected to the EU budget deficit ceiling of 3 percent of economic output, albeit at separate events, Reuters reported. But while League party leader Matteo Salvini denounced the EU as “destroyers,” Five Star’s Luigi Di Maio said he wanted constructive relations with Brussels.

Salvini also said he wanted a rightwing government and ruled out an alliance with the center-left Democratic Party (PD), which in turn has said it won’t ally with Five Star.

If nobody can form a coalition, the president will try to convince the parties to back a non-political government with a limited mandate.


Once More, With Feeling

A coalition government looks to be likely in Sierra Leone, as well. But first voters will head to the ballot box for a run-off election to see who will be the country’s next president.

The Chief Electoral Commissioner said Tuesday that a run-off vote will be held March 27 between Samura Kamara of the ruling All People’s Congress (APC) and Julius Maada Bio of the opposition Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP), the Sierra Leone Telegraph reported.

In the first round, Kamara won 42.7 percent of the vote, and Bio took 43.5 percent. But the country’s electoral rules mandate a run-off if no candidate wins 55 percent of the vote.

The result lays the groundwork for a coalition government that depends on the National Grand Coalition (NGC) and at least one other smaller party – which the paper suggests makes an SLPP-led government likely and also presents encouraging signs for the country’s struggle against corruption and internal strife.


Drastic Measures

Last year, 55 percent of facial plastic surgeons reported seeing patients whose primary concern was looking good in selfies, according to a survey by the American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery. That’s 13 percentage points higher than the previous year.

With rhinoplasties the most common invasive procedure for both men and women, one plastic surgeon took it upon himself to debunk peoples’ perceptions that they’re in need of a nose-job after an unflattering selfie.

Boris Paskhover, a facial plastic surgeon with the Rutgers New Jersey Medical School, teamed up with a computer scientist and developed a digital model of the average human head. They then simulated how much bigger the nose appeared with a selfie taken at 12 inches from the face, as opposed to a portrait taken five feet away.

Their results, published in the journal JAMA Facial Plastic Surgery, revealed that close-ups made the nose appear 30 percent bigger in men, and 29 percent bigger in women.

The enlargement is due to the wide-angle lens used in most smartphone cameras, which distorts images close to the camera, the Verge reported. Longer lenses found in traditional cameras, however, flatten the image, making the photos more flattering.

A few tips before resorting to rhinoplasty: Invest in a better camera, get a selfie stick, or, when in doubt, resort to Photoshop.

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