The World Today for May 11, 2023
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Thai political candidate Paetongtarn Shinawatra, 36, who is the frontrunner in upcoming national elections, recently gave birth to a son, Pluenkthasinsuksawat, known by his nickname, Thasin. The baby might have brought her luck.
Paetongtarn, the scion of a family of prime ministers from the opposition populist Pheu Thai Party, is expected to defeat Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, a conservative who enjoys the military’s support, when the constitutional monarchy holds a general election on May 14, reported CNN.
That would be remarkable because Thai military honchos, the monarch, and their conservative political allies have long sought to prevent Paetongtarn’s family from running the Southeast Asian nation again, noted GZERO.
Her father, Thaksin Shinawatra, who introduced popular policies like universal health care and debt relief, lost his job as prime minister in 2006 after a military coup. He currently lives in exile. The country’s constitutional court dissolved a government led by Thaksin’s brother-in-law, Somchai Wongsawat in 2008. Prime Minister Prayuth, an ex-army boss, ousted Paetongtarn’s aunt, former Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, in 2014 after a controversial court judgment.
But voters put Pheu Thai Party leaders back in power no matter how many times the military shuts the family down.
“The whole sense of caring for the poor and the downtrodden and the ability of Thaksin to communicate in a simple Thai language to the 47 million Thai people – the have-nots – there has not been any Thai politician that has been able to give an alternative,” said former Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya, a critic of the dynasty, in an interview with the New York Times.
In a recent poll, the Pheu Thai Party, which advocates for left-of-center populist policies, is forecast to garner almost 42 percent of the vote, wrote the Diplomat. The Move Forward Party, a more progressive leftist opposition group, is slated to garner almost 20 percent. Prayuth’s conservative United Thai Nation Party might win less than 10 percent.
Some fear that Paetongtarn’s rise to power might trigger more instability, especially if she confronts or triggers the military, conservative politicians, and the powerful monarchy, wrote Foreign Policy.
The Thai system is arguably rigged to keep the conservative alliance in power, too, explained Al Jazeera. Voters elect 500 lawmakers to the House of Representatives. But 250 military-appointed senators also have a say in who becomes premier. The Pheu Thai and Move Forward parties together need more than 75 percent of the House, or a total of 376 seats, to form a government if the Senate is united in its opposition.
The dynasty has done it before. Will they do it again?
THE WORLD, BRIEFLY
The Pilgrimage of Tragedy
A security officer shot and killed six people at a synagogue on the Tunisian island of Djerba this week, an attack that took place during an annual Jewish pilgrimage at one of Africa’s oldest synagogues, Sky News reported Wednesday.
Tunisian officials said the unidentified gunman killed his National Guard colleague at a naval installation in Djerba before launching an attack on the 2,500-year-old Ghriba temple.
The attacker fired at police and visitors before being shot dead by security guards. At least eight people were injured, including four police officers.
The dead included two Jewish cousins – one French and the other Israeli-Tunisian – and one police officer. It’s unclear whether the civilians killed were pilgrims.
The island of Djerba – around 300 miles from the capital Tunis – houses Tunisia’s main Jewish community, one of the region’s largest with around 1,800 members.
The Ghriba temple has experienced previous terror attacks.
In 2002, a truck bombing killed 21 people at the synagogue’s entrance during the annual Jewish pilgrimage.
Al Qaeda claimed responsibility for the attack.
Ecuadoran lawmakers voted this week to begin an impeachment trial against conservative President Guillermo Lasso, a move many analysts said could set off a political crisis in the Latin American nation, the Washington Post reported.
The vote marks the first time an Ecuadoran president has been targeted for impeachment proceedings since the country’s return to democracy in 1979.
Lasso faces accusations of embezzlement, specifically of improperly handling state contracts for oil transportation with a private company. Opposition lawmakers said his decisions, made knowingly, resulted in the loss of millions of dollars in public funds.
But the conservative leader denies any wrongdoing, saying that his opponents are initiating an impeachment process for decisions made from 2018 to 2020, before he was president.
A legislative oversight commission investigating the case found no evidence suggesting that Lasso knew about the contracts and also that he did not promote signing a new agreement with the private firm. The commission also recommended against impeachment proceedings.
The recent vote comes as Ecuador is grappling with a wave of drug trafficking and violence unlike any in its history. Since 2021, hundreds of inmates of the country’s gang-dominated prisons have been killed in over a dozen massacres.
Lasso’s trial is expected to begin later this month but political observers noted that he could avoid impeachment by initiating a constitutional mechanism.
The mechanism – “muerte cruzada” or “crossed death” – allows the president to dissolve parliament and usher in a new presidential election within six months.
But analysts cautioned that such a move could result in massive political upheaval: Ecuador’s largest Indigenous federation vowed to launch mass demonstrations if Lasso moved to dissolve parliament.
Chinese police arrested a man this week accused of using ChatGPT to generate a fake news article posted across social media, the first time authorities have enforced a recently passed law related to artificial intelligence, CNBC reported.
Officials alleged that the man fabricated a news story about a train crash that caused nine deaths. They said they found more than 20 accounts had posted this article on a blogging platform owned by Chinese search giant Baidu and these had garnered more than 15,000 views.
Police added that the man used the chatbot to create slightly altered versions of the fake news article to pass duplication checks on the platform.
The arrest underscores China’s efforts to regulate and control the use of advanced AI technology. The man is being charged under new legislation governing “deep synthesis technologies” which China introduced this year as ChatGPT was gaining traction.
The new regulation describes deep synthesis technologies such as AI that can be used to generate text, images, video or other media. The rules strictly prohibit the use of deep synthesis services to spread fake news.
China is trying to introduce rules on new technologies that could become a threat to the government.
While ChatGPT is blocked in China, users can try to access the chatbot through virtual private networks to bypass the country’s Internet restrictions.
ChatGPT is a chatbot developed by the US-based corporation OpenAI that is built on generative AI technology, which allows the software to produce replies depending on human prompts and inquiries.
Chinese tech companies are trialing their own rivals to ChatGPT. However, analysts told CNBC that firms have been more careful in their approach and have targeted certain uses in order to not run afoul of regulators.
Fires of the Sea
Scientists discovered a number of “hydrothermal lost cities” deep in the Atlantic Ocean, where scalding water billows like smoke from the sea floor, the Miami Herald reported.
Located more than 2,200 miles east of Miami, the exploration team came across three new hydrothermal vent fields while mapping an area of about 65 square miles along the volatile Mid-Atlantic Ridge.
They explained that those fields resemble seafloor wildfires that can spew out seawater reaching up to 700 degrees Fahrenheit. Although it looks like the seafloor is ejecting smoke, the team noted that the vents are letting out seawater that has been “chemically altered through water-rock interactions at high temperatures.”
While it might seem dangerous to be close to them, researchers noticed the fields were surrounded by many creatures attracted to the warmth, including “massive swarms of vent shrimp.”
“These are the very real ecosystems around the hydrothermal vents we were lucky enough to explore … Astounding geological structures and remarkable biological diversity,” said the Schmidt Ocean Institute, which participated in the deep-sea expedition.
The Mid-Atlantic Ridge is an almost 10,000-mile-long mountain range that stretches down the center of the Atlantic Ocean, appearing as a massive wall. These hydrothermal vent fields were located at depths ranging from 1.2 to 2.4 miles.
Studying the Ridge and its vent fields could provide scientists with new clues about how life on Earth began.
“While the exact origins of life on Earth are unknown, the process necessitates two things: organic molecules and a stable environment to preserve them,” the institute reported. “The chemical process that creates Lost City-style vents meets both requirements.”
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