The World Today for July 12, 2023

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Not Going Anywhere


Since he began his six-year term of office in December 2018, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, the center-left populist has stirred controversy, particularly with his plans to root out corrupt interests and invest in public infrastructure to help the working class.

López Obrador, also known popularly as AMLO, recently pledged to tackle fraud and corruption at Segalmex, a government agency that aims to advocate for self-sufficiency in agriculture, for example, reported Reuters.

He has also endorsed proposals to allow Mexican drug cartels to reach peace agreements among themselves to reduce violence in the country, added La Prensa Latina, a Cuban state-owned news agency. More than 110,000 people are listed as missing in Mexico. Many could be among the 52,000 bodies discovered in unmarked graves in the country.

López Obrador has repeatedly clashed with Mexico’s Supreme Court on the many executive orders and other measures he’s sought to enact to achieve his goals, reported El País. The court has considered more than 800 questions about the constitutionality of his proposals, ruling that 572 violated the constitution.

American officials have criticized López Obrador for spending money on social programs rather than devoting funding to the war against drugs and other American priorities, noted the Intercept. Canadian officials don’t like how he is exerting more control over his country’s petroleum, mining, and other energy industries, added Jacobin magazine.

Writers at the Economist even criticized him for not spending enough to boost his country’s economy, contrasting his approach to Brazilian and Pakistani leaders who sunk their nations deeper into debt to stoke demand during the coronavirus pandemic and after.

Despite the flak, López Obrador’s approval ratings now exceed 60 percent, according to the Americas Society/Council of the Americas. It looks like his Morena political party will also perform well when Mexican voters elect a new president in June 2024.

While polls said that 48 percent of the public would support a Morena candidate, only 18 percent said they would support candidates from the largest opposition group the National Action Party. A shockingly low 14 percent said they would cast ballots for the Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, which has ruled Mexico for most of the time it has been an independent country.

In a potential sign of the future, the Guardian wrote, López Obrador’s ally Delfina Gomez recently defeated an incumbent from the PRI in the state of Mexico, a region that surrounds the capital of Mexico City.

López Obrador will leave office next year. His policies, however, aren’t going anywhere.


Unyielding Disruption


Thousands of Israelis blocked roads and clashed with police across the country Tuesday, the latest mass demonstrations against the government’s plan to overhaul the judiciary, the BBC reported.

The protests – known as the “day of disruption” by organizers – saw Israelis cutting off important transportation routes in a number of cities, including Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, as well as demonstrations in the country’s main airport.

At least 70 people have been arrested, according to authorities.

Tuesday’s unrest came a day after the conservative coalition of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu progressed with a planned judicial reform that would weaken the power of Israel’s Supreme Court to overturn legislation and government decisions, the Wall Street Journal wrote.

Lawmakers of Netanyahu’s coalition voted Monday on the first of three readings of the bill without any support from the opposition. The vote would curb the Supreme Court’s power to strike down decisions from the government or individual officials on the grounds of “reasonableness.”

The government explained that the reasonableness metric is too arbitrary and gives unelected judges the power to overturn decisions taken by elected officials. But supporters countered that the test is important to prevent corruption.

The vote came weeks after Netanyahu said he will go ahead with a revised version of the reform, following stalled negotiations with opposition parties.

The judicial overhaul has sparked months of large-scale protests since they were announced earlier this year. Netanyahu and his coalition said the court’s power must be reined in, adding that it exercises too much political interference.

However, critics warned that the move could erode Israel’s democratic foundations.

Meanwhile, Israel’s tech industry and military reservists have expressed strong opposition to the overhaul.

Hundreds of reservists have threatened to stop turning up for duty in protest at the reforms. On Tuesday, reservists from Israel’s Shin Bet domestic security agency and the Mossad intelligence service also said they would follow suit.

Making Way


Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha will not seek reelection and is to retire from politics, his party announced Tuesday, a decision that comes two months after a parliamentary election that saw voters overwhelmingly reject the country’s military-backed rule, CNN reported.

The announcement came just two days before Thailand’s parliament is set to vote for a new prime minister after May’s elections.

Those elections saw opposition parties secure a majority in the lower house of parliament, including the progressive Move Forward party which gained the most seats, 152 out of 500, and the largest share of the popular vote.

Prayuth’s United Thai Nation party only won 36 seats.

Although he will remain caretaker prime minister until a new government is formed, Prayuth’s departure ends nearly a decade of rule by the army chief-turned-prime minister.

He came to power following a 2014 coup and declared himself prime minister. In 2019, his party’s coalition gained a majority in the legislature and he was elected leader with the backing of the upper house.

But his rule has received criticism over growing authoritarianism and widening inequality. In 2020, mass demonstrations swept the country with protesters calling for Prayuth’s resignation. The protest sparked as a result of failed promises to restore democracy, as well as the repression of civil rights and freedoms.

Analysts described his decision to retire as the “defeat of the military regime” and a “boost to pro-democracy supporters.”

His retirement also reduces the possibility of a conservative challenger to Move Forward leader Pita Limjaroenrat when lawmakers convene Thursday to elect a new prime minister, Nikkei Asia added.

Even so, observers told Nikkei that a Move Forward government could still face challenges: The constitution and electoral rules were promulgated in 2017 by the military government, and allows the 250 military-appointed senators to join in electing the prime minister.

Opening Gates


Iranian women will be allowed to attend the country’s upcoming top soccer league matches, after years of being banned from entering stadiums to watch matches except on rare occasions, Agence France-Presse reported.

Mehdi Taj, head of Iran’s Football Federation, announced this week that women can enter stadiums in next month’s 16-team soccer tournament. He added that the sports venues in a number of cities – except the capital Tehran – were “ready” to host women.

Taj’s comments mark a significant turn for women soccer fans in Iran, where authorities have largely barred female spectators from soccer and other sports stadiums since the 1979 Islamic revolution.

Although there is no law banning participation, the country’s clerics – who play a major role in decision-making – said that women must be shielded from the masculine environment and semi-clad male athletes.

Other officials, meanwhile, have blamed the lack of infrastructure in sports facilities.

Still, there have been instances of women being permitted to attend matches.

Last August, women attended a national soccer championship match for the first time. In 2019, around 4,000 women were allowed to attend Iran’s 2022 World Cup qualifier against Cambodia at Tehran’s Azadi Stadium.

Iran has faced pressure to allow women into soccer matches following the 2019 death of soccer fan Sahar Khodayari, who set herself on fire for fear of being jailed after trying to attend a match disguised as a man.


Overlooked Role

A new study on modern hunter-gatherer societies is dispelling the assumption that women have been mere caretakers and only tended to children, Science Alert reported.

Scientists analyzed more than 60 existing foraging societies across the world within the past century and found that nearly 80 percent of them showed evidence of female hunting.

The female’s role in hunting was also not limited: The women would stalk and hunt prey, not just kill an animal if the opportunity arose. Data also showed that women’s participation was up to 100 percent in groups where hunting was the most important source of food.

The research team observed that female hunters would often use unique strategies and toolkits for hunting.

For example, the Agta women in the Philippines would hunt in teams during the day and employ bows and arrows, and knives. The men, however, would mainly hunt alone at night, mainly using bows and arrows.

And in a case of multi-tasking and juggling, the female hunters would also bring their children – even as infants – along in their hunts. The findings found that childcare did not suffer.

The team explained that the analysis clearly shows the integral yet historically overlooked role women have played in human survival.

They suggest that one of the main reasons for this oversight is scientific bias coupled with modern gender stereotypes.

For instance, archaeologists have often assumed that the human remains near Viking weapons were male, but new investigations have shown that there were female warriors.

“Researcher bias shapes science’s interpretation of data, and it behooves each generation of scientists to ensure that paradigms fit the existing data,” the authors wrote.

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