The World Today for April 27, 2023

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President Shavkat Mirziyoyev feels like staying around for a while.

That’s why voters in Uzbekistan have started marking their ballots in a referendum that would let him remain in office until 2040. If voters approve the new constitution, the document would then “nullify” the two terms that Mirziyoyev has already held, allowing him to run again, and extend Uzbek presidential terms from five years to seven, reported Radio Free Europe.

The new constitution would change more than the president’s job. It would also make Uzbekistan into a “social state” that ensures citizens enjoy a higher quality of life. The new constitution would triple the amount of the state’s obligations to citizens including the right to housing and medical care, fair wages, and safe working conditions.

“We must change the current principle of state-society-person to a new one of person-society-state, and this must be enshrined in national legislation and in legal practice,” said Mirziyoyev in 2021 when the idea of revising the constitution was first floated, according to bne IntelliNews.

If approved, the new constitution would create a new economic system and social contract in the country that would reduce poverty, boost economic development, and curb corruption, argued Fanil Kadyrov, deputy director of the International Institute for Central Asia, in Sada El Balad English, an Egyptian news website.

Foreign dignitaries who have visited the former Soviet republic in Central Asia have compared the proposed constitution to the Magna Carta, the English document of 1215 that many view as one of the first measures in history to reduce central government and enshrine individual liberties, the Uzbekistan-based Center for Strategy Development, a non-government organization with close ties to the Uzbek government, claimed in a press release.

Discussions over the new constitution come as Uzbekistan is opening up more to the world. Chinese ties with the country are expanding. The same is happening with Iran. Tourism has also become more popular in the country, reported Euronews. The ancient city of Samarkand, for example, contains stunning architecture that mixes Eastern and Western themes, including the 600-year-old mausoleum of the Turco-Mongolian conqueror Tamerlane.

Controversies have dogged the process, though. For example, initial proposals for the new constitution sought to eliminate the Karakalpakstan Autonomous Republic’s right to secede. Last year, Karakalpaks protested when details of the proposal became public. Twenty-one protesters died in a police crackdown on the demonstration. The idea was then dropped from the final draft of the proposed constitution.

Today, as wrote, activist Dauletmurat Tazhimuratov is alleging that he has been tortured in Uzbek prisons because of his supposed involvement in whipping up the trouble.

The new constitution, alas, likely won’t help Tazhimuratov.


Streets of Fire


Sudan’s army moved former President Omar al-Bashir and members of his former regime to a military hospital Wednesday after fighting between the army and paramilitary forces in the capital resulted in the release of thousands of detainees from Kober prison, which had held the deposed leader, the Guardian reported.

The relocation occurred amid ongoing skirmishes between the Sudanese army and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) that began about 10 days ago.

The battle reached Kober prison near Khartoum over the weekend, with police – who are aligned with the military – saying that RSF forces broke into the center and released all prisoners. The RSF countered that the military had “forcibly evacuated” the facility as part of a plan to restore Bashir to power.

The prison break underscores the violent instability in Sudan that began over disagreements between the head of the military, Gen. Abdel Fattah Burhan, and the RSF chief, Gen. Mohammed Hamdan Dagalo. Both the military and the RSF cooperated in deposing Bashir from power following popular protests in 2019.

Although both the army and the RSF have attempted to present themselves as supporters of the pro-democracy movement in the country, which aims to reinstate its transition to civilian rule, they collaborated to overthrow civilian leaders in a coup less than two years ago.

The release of more than 25,000 convicted criminals exacerbated Khartoum’s increasing sense of lawlessness, with citizens reporting deteriorating security, rampant looting, and gangs roaming the streets, according to Al Jazeera.

Meanwhile, Bashir and some of his former officials are wanted by the International Criminal Court over alleged war crimes, genocide, and crimes against humanity allegedly committed in the western region of Darfur from 2003 to 2018.

Target Acquired


Taliban forces killed the leader of the Islamic State (IS) cell responsible for the 2021 suicide bombing at Kabul’s international airport, an attack that killed almost 200 people and came shortly after the Taliban took control of Afghanistan following the withdrawal of US-led foreign troops, CBS News reported.

Pentagon officials confirmed that the Taliban killed the mastermind “in early April,” but added that the US was not involved in the operation. They also did not name the individual and it’s unclear whether the Taliban specifically targeted him or he was killed during ongoing skirmishes between IS and the Taliban.

The US was not informed about the death by the Taliban, but learned of the leader’s death via intelligence gathering and the monitoring of the region’s ongoing threats and actors, officials noted.

The 2021 airport attack killed more than 180 people, including 13 US service members. The Islamic State of Khorasan Province (IS-K) claimed responsibility for the bombing.

The bombing was a significant blow for the Taliban and put into question their guarantees for a more peaceful Afghanistan following their return, the New York Times wrote.

Since the withdrawal, Taliban and IS-K fighters have been engaged in numerous battles across the country. While Taliban security forces have prevented the armed group from claiming territory or recruiting fighters, IS-K has spread to nearly all of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces.

The group has also carried out major suicide attacks on government buildings and diplomatic missions in Kabul.

The Sorrowful March


Around 3,000 migrants are marching through southern Mexico this week as part of a mass protest to demand the closure of the country’s detention centers, the BBC reported.

The migrants began their walk Sunday from the city of Tapachula, near the Guatemalan border, and plan to reach the capital Mexico City in 10 days.

Protest organizers told the Associated Press that the migrants would flagellate themselves and block roads if the government did not agree to negotiations. Apart from the closures, they are also demanding better treatment, and exit visas or other documents that would allow them to make it to the United States border.

The migrants are mainly from Central America, Cuba, Venezuela, Ecuador, and Colombia.

The migrant caravan comes a month after a blaze at a detention center in Ciudad Juárez – near the US border – killed 40 people. The fire started after a migrant allegedly set fire to a foam mattress to protest a transfer.

Video footage showing uniformed officials leaving migrants behind in locked cells as the fire engulfed the facility sparked outrage in the country. Five people are facing homicide charges, including a Venezuelan man believed to have started the fire, three immigration agents and a private security guard.

Mexican prosecutors have also pressed charges against the head of Mexico’s migration agency, Francisco Garduño, over the incident.

It’s uncertain how many demonstrators will make it to the US border, as in the past authorities have frequently broken up large gatherings well before they reached Mexico City or the border.


Defeating the Warriors

The Vikings began settling in eastern Greenland in the late 10th century and thrived for around 400 years.

Then in the mid-15th, they just packed up and abandoned their once thriving settlements, including the large Eastern Settlements.

Historians have proposed a number of theories for the exodus, including social unrest, drought, and changing temperatures.

But a new research paper suggested that a rise in sea levels over the years also forced the Vikings to relocate, CNN reported.

Using a computer model based on geological and climate records, scientists discovered that sea levels would have risen almost 10 feet during the four centuries of occupation starting in 985 CE.

This sea level rise would have made life challenging for the settlers as they became more vulnerable to storms and coastal erosion that would have resulted in the loss of fertile land.

This loss of land is underscored by analysis of human and animal remains, which showed that the Viking settlers switched their diets from a land-based diet – including livestock – to marine-based, eating fish and seals.

The team said this rise came during the Little Ice Age, a period that began around 1250 CE which saw temperatures become cooler and drier in the Northern Hemisphere.

Although it sounds counterintuitive, co-author Richard Alley explained the sea level rose in the region because the Greenland Ice Sheet “pushed down the land around it, something like the dent that forms around you if you sit on a waterbed.”

Lead author Marisa J. Borreggine noted that the findings show that there are some parallels between the Vikings’ predicament and today’s climate problems.

“The Vikings didn’t really have a choice,” she said in a statement. “They couldn’t stop the Little Ice Age. We can do work to mitigate climate change. The Vikings were locked into it.”

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