The World Today for September 02, 2022
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Technocrats, scientists, environmentalists, and other experts and policymakers love Chile’s proposed new constitution. As Nature detailed, the new founding document for the South American nation would “boost science, expand environmental protection and improve the nation’s education system.”
Problem is, few Chileans feel the same way.
The new constitution, which Chileans will approve or reject in a Sept. 4th referendum, is a symbol of the times. It would replace a constitution adopted more than 40 years ago under Augusto Pinochet, a military dictator who seized the country from a democratically-elected left-wing president in a US-backed coup.
Pinochet died in 2006. But, even as Chileans have since elected their leaders in democratic exercises, the system he created lived on. Conservatives at the Hoover Institution have praised the legacy system as capitalistic and pro-business, for example. In 2019, however, civil unrest broke out as Chileans took to the streets to protest inequality that they believed stemmed from deregulated markets and privatized social welfare systems, as the Guardian explained.
The new constitution would include environmental protections that stop private companies from gobbling up resources for profit while ordinary Chileans go without, for example, according to the Sierra Club. It would also limit the president to two consecutive terms, establish social rights to housing, food and other essentials and enshrine other progressive measures into law, Reuters added.
In 2020, Chileans voted to revise their constitution in a referendum. Scientists, educators, indigenous leaders rather than politicians, military officers and rich elites drafted the proposed constitution. In 2022, left-wing Gabriel Boric won the presidency on a campaign to welcome a new constitution.
Now it seems their plans might come to naught. Polls show that almost 46 percent of voters will give the document a thumbs down, reported Bloomberg. Only a third will approve it. Around 16 percent are undecided. Boric is already vowing to propose a new constitution if the no vote wins – not a good sign for proponents of change.
The arguments against change are legion, however. Writing in the Wall Street Journal, Adolfo Ibáñez University economist Axel Kaiser argued that the new constitution would undermine the freedom of the judiciary, destroy the country’s stable business climate and centralize government authority, eliminating crucial checks and balances that maintain social stability.
Moderate voters will be key to determining whether the new constitution becomes the law of the land, Americas Quarterly wrote. Voting is mandatory, so many might vote yes because they feel as if they had little choice but to enact change anytime soon even if they tell pollsters that they are leery about the document.
Wholesale change is, after all, scary.
THE WORLD, BRIEFLY
The United Nations Human Rights Office released a long-awaited report this week that accused Chinese authorities of being involved in “serious human rights violations” over their crackdown on ethnic minorities in Xinjiang province, the Washington Post reported Thursday.
The damning report comes months after UN Human Rights Commissioner Michelle Bachelet visited the province in May to investigate alleged human rights violations perpetrated by China against the Muslim Uyghur community.
At the time, many Uyghur advocates had criticized Bachelet and the UN agency for not doing enough to pressure China.
The published report follows months of delays, but the findings are in line with evidence and research provided by other rights groups, diplomats and Uyghur exiles that have documented state-sponsored abuses of minority groups in Xinjiang.
The new report is based on in-depth interviews with 40 firsthand witnesses, including 26 who had been held in detention facilities – which Chinese officials have called “free vocational training centers” – in Xinjiang since 2016.
The UN office wrote that it was “reasonable to conclude that a pattern of large-scale arbitrary detention” occurred in those facilities. It added that there was evidence of “patterns of torture or other forms of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”
Following the report’s publication, China swiftly denounced the findings Thursday. It called the report a “farce” and a politically motivated effort to smear China.
Many Uyghur advocates, however, praised the findings, calling it the “most definitive assessment of the issues faced by Uyghurs and other Turkic peoples” in China. While some said that the report boosted the credibility of the UN office, others criticized the organization for not using the word “genocide” in its assessment.
The findings come as Chinese President Xi Jinping is preparing for a key party congress in October, where he is poised to break with tradition by taking on a third term.
While Xi’s leadership appears secure, the report will add to rising criticism of measures that have put Beijing in conflict with the international community.
Reporting, The Enemy
British police chiefs are ordering their officers to disclose whether they associate with any reporters, the same way they would with convicted criminals, a measure that has sparked criticism from journalist organizations in the country, the Guardian reported.
The measure follows guidance from the College of Policing, which sets the standards in law enforcement. The issue only came to light by accident.
Some forces have already implemented this measure, which is part of an effort to fight corruption. It comes as the policing inspectorate is urging the Metropolitan police – the nation’s largest police force – to bring in the measure.
But many journalism advocates and organizations criticized the measure, describing it as more typical of “authoritarian regimes around the world rather than advanced democracies.”
There is concern that the order may discourage officers wanting to whistleblow, or who don’t trust their bosses to act on complaints of wrongdoing.
Ruth Smeeth of Index on Censorship cautioned that the measure risks portraying journalists
“as unsavory or potentially disreputable individuals for officers to associate with.”
Within policing, some senior figures were surprised at the measure and privately oppose it.
The College of Policing maintained that the guidance is under review and stressed that it “should not impede healthy relationships between the police and the media.”
A Luddite’s End
Japan will implement measures to get rid of floppy disks and other old-fashioned technology after the country’s digital affairs minister “declared war” on obsolete devices to push the government into the digital age, Sky News reported.
Minister Taro Kono said that existing regulations will be updated to allow people to use online services. He added that the new measures aim to remove outdated tech such as CDs, MiniDiscs and even fax machines.
The move came after a government committee found that about 1,900 law, government and ministerial clauses specify that certain storage devices, including floppy discs, are utilized to create administrative applications and store data.
The government aims to reduce bureaucracy by abolishing these requirements.
Despite making strides in technological development, Japan has made headlines in the past for its analog habits, according to the BBC.
Various theories have been advanced, including insufficient Internet literacy and a traditional bureaucratic culture.
In 2018, Yoshitaka Sakurada, the minister in charge of Japan’s cybersecurity, admitted that he had never used a computer and would delegate IT tasks to his staff.
A year later, the country’s final pager provider closed its services.
- Russia has lost more than 900 special forces soldiers, paratroopers, marines and pilots in over six months of war in Ukraine, the Moscow Times reported. The deaths of such soldiers are especially troublesome for the Russian Armed Forces because they are extremely expensive to replace.
- Investigators from the International Atomic Energy Agency arrived at the Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia nuclear power station after a lengthy delay brought on by shelling in the area of Enerhodar, where the plant is situated, CNBC noted.
- Russia and China have launched large-scale military drills involving many friendly nations, demonstrating Moscow and Beijing’s expanding defense cooperation as both face difficulties with the US, according to the Associated Press. The maneuvers are also meant to show that Moscow has enough military capability to conduct huge drills while its forces are fighting in Ukraine.
In the children’s cartoon “Spongebob Squarepants,” the titular character becomes ill in one episode and starts sneezing bubbles.
It turns out that sneezing sea sponges are not fictional, according to Cosmos magazine.
In a new study, scientists closely monitored the Caribbean stovepipe sponge to understand why such sneezing occurs.
Sneezing in sea sponges is not new: Unlike humans, the marine creatures filter water not air and their sneezes can take about half an hour, the Guardian noted.
Still, researchers noted that sternutation serves as a “waste disposal” mechanism in both species.
The team wrote that sponges filter out particles they can use for food when they suck in water. But it happens that they sometimes inhale in bigger particles which causes water inlets in the sponge’s tissue to release mucus.
This mucus-rich material is subsequently ejected outside as the sponge contracts and expands.
Researchers added that surrounding fish would then eat these expelled particles, noting that the sponges play an important role in providing food.
“There’s many critters that probably would crave a bit of sponge snot,” lead author Jasper de Goeij.
De Goeij and his colleagues, however, suggested that there are still questions surrounding this waste disposal system, such as what exactly triggers this sneezing and how common is it among sea sponges – one of the oldest multicellular creatures.
“Our findings highlight opportunities to better understand material cycling in some of the most ancient Metazoans”, they write in their paper.