The World Today for September 13, 2023

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The special prison that Peruvian officials have established on the outskirts of Lima for presidents convicted of corruption is full. Attorney and pundit Rosa Maria Palacios told National Public Radio that the presence of three former heads of state in the Barbadillo prison underscores the deep instability that afflicts her South American nation.

Alberto Fujimori was incarcerated in 2007 for a 25-year sentence for human rights abuses. Pedro Castillo came late last year after he attempted to dissolve Congress and rule by decree. The leader of a peasants’ union, he’s been charged with rebellion on the basis of his alleged coup, but his defenders say that Peru’s political elites wrongly removed him after they twice failed to impeach him.

Alejandro Toledo arrived in April. He faces money laundering charges stemming from his tenure in office between 2001 and 2006. As the Times of Israel explained, his wife, Eliane Karp fled to Israel using her Israeli passport rather than return to Peru from the US after American officials extradited her husband to face charges at home. Israel and the US do not have an extradition treaty, so she might never face justice.

These are only the presidents and their families who were caught. Over the past 30 years, many Peruvian presidents have been linked, for example, to the infamous Brazil-based Odebrecht construction firm, whose executives admitted to bribing politicians throughout Latin America to receive public works contracts to the tune of around $800 million.

The instability that Palacios discussed might stem from the Peruvians who are sick of putting up with corrupt politicians making off like bandits while they suffer economically. Violent protests have become increasingly common as citizens take to the streets to denounce their leaders, wrote MercoPress.

On July 19, for example, tens of thousands of people took to the streets to protest the government, the largest demonstration since February, when security forces killed at least 49 people in a crackdown on protests, wrote the Council on Foreign Relations. Local polls show that 75 percent of Peruvians want President Dina Boluarte to resign. But Peru has already had six presidents in the last five years.

Boluarte was Castillo’s vice president. Unlike him, however, she is a conservative who stands up for the business community, mining companies and other commercial interests that are vital to the Peruvian economy. These interests helped Peru capitalize on the spike in costs for resources in recent years, the Atlantic Council explained, though the country is now in a recession in part due to civil unrest.

If the past is any precedent, Boluarte’s chances are slim.


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No Respite


More than 5,000 people are presumed dead and at least 10,000 are missing after Storm Daniel caused two dams to collapse in northeastern Libya, in what observers have described as one of the deadliest storms in North Africa, CNN reported.

Libya’s weather agency said the storm reached a peak in the country’s northeast earlier this week, with strong winds of up to 50 miles per hour. The storm hit a number of cities in that region, with the eastern city of Derna suffering the worst destruction, according to authorities.

Officials said entire neighborhoods were flooded in Derna following the collapse of the two dams. The city’s phone lines were also down, which is making rescue efforts much more difficult, they noted.

A number of nations are planning to send aid, including rescue teams, to the North African country.

There are concerns that rescue efforts will be hampered by Libya’s ongoing political crisis that has seen the countries split into two rival administrations, as well as sporadic fighting.

The United Nations-backed Government of National Unity, led by Prime Minister Abdul-Hamid Dbeibah, is headquartered in Tripoli in northwest Libya, while its eastern rival is controlled by commander Khalifa Haftar and his Libyan National Army, which supports the eastern-based parliament led by rival prime minister, Osama Hamad.

Derna falls under Haftar’s government.

The storm is a result of an intense low-pressure system that caused severe flooding in Greece last week and subsequently moved into the Mediterranean, where it transformed into a tropical cyclone-like storm known as a “medicane.”

This storm is the latest of a series of deadly and record-breaking climate events, ranging from destructive wildfires to unparalleled heatwaves, the news outlet said. This summer has been confirmed as the hottest on record globally, with experts cautioning that 2024 is expected to bring even higher temperatures.

The Showdown Begins


Israel’s supreme court heard the first legal challenge to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s judicial overhaul plan on Tuesday, a case that underscored the tribunal’s showdown with the government and which risks plunging the country into a constitutional crisis, the Associated Press reported Tuesday.

The case centers on a proposed bill unveiled by Netanyahu’s coalition earlier this year that would decrease the power of the country’s top court. Tuesday’s proceedings specifically focused on the first law – passed in July – that would remove the court’s ability to strike down government decisions it deems to be “unreasonable.”

Although the first proceedings were relatively calm, the judges and the government’s legal representatives clashed over a series of issues, including the court’s impartiality and whether the legislation “doesn’t endanger democracy.”

The ruling is expected to take weeks or even months. Meanwhile, the case puts Israel’s Supreme Court in the unprecedented position of deciding whether to accept limits on its own powers.

Netanyahu’s coalition – made up of ultra-nationalist and religious parties – said the legislation is important to rein in an unelected judiciary they believe wields too much power.

But opponents have decried it as a significant threat to Israel’s democracy, adding that it would concentrate too much power in the executive branch of government.

Hundreds of thousands of people have participated in months-long protests since the government unveiled the overhaul earlier this year. Opposition against the legislation has come from various facets of Israel’s society, including thousands of military reservists, who have declared their refusal to report for duty over the plan.

Large demonstrations also took place on Monday night in protest of the judicial changes. On Tuesday, a few supporters protested in front of the supreme court in favor of the law.

Netanyahu has not commented on whether he would respect the court’s decision to strike down the law. However, members of his coalition have hinted that the government might disregard the court’s ruling.

Legal analysts caution that a disregard of the court’s decision could trigger a constitutional crisis, wherein citizens and the nation’s security forces would be compelled to determine whose orders to follow.

Won’t Back Down


A Philippine court acquitted Nobel laureate Maria Ressa and her news site Rappler on Tuesday of tax fraud charges, a ruling seen as another legal victory for the embattled journalist and the state of press freedom in the Southeast Asian nation, Reuters reported.

Ressa, CEO of Rappler, had earned a reputation for her intense scrutiny of former President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs and his handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

In 2018, the government accused Ressa and Rappler of dodging tax payments after failing to declare the proceeds of a 2015 sale of depositary receipts to foreign investors. Ressa and her organization faced five tax fraud indictments, but a court acquitted them of four charges in January.

On Tuesday, a separate court also found she did not violate the country’s tax code, the Associated Press added.

Ressa welcomed the ruling, saying it sends a “good signal” to the business community as her tax charges “have a lot to do with the rule of law.”

She is currently on bail after being convicted in 2020 in a libel case. That conviction is on appeal with the Supreme Court.

Meanwhile, Rappler continues to operate pending its appeal against a closure order from the Securities and Exchange Commission.

The Philippine journalist has called the cases against her and the outlet politically motivated.

In 2021, Ressa and Russian journalist Dmitry Muratov received the Nobel Peace Prize for their dedication to preserving freedom of expression and resisting government attempts to silence them.

The Philippines is placed at 132 out of 180 countries in the World Press Freedom Index. It characterizes the country’s media landscape as “extremely vibrant,” despite the government’s persistent targeting and harassment of journalists who are “too critical.”


The Scent of Death

Ancient Egypt’s funerary rituals were intricate but they could also be very lavish and expensive, Science News reported

Scientists recently resurrected the ancient scent used for the mummification of a 3,500-year-old noblewoman.

More than a century ago, archaeologists discovered the remains of the woman entombed in Egypt’s famous Valley of Kings, a burial site known for holding the tombs of pharaohs and esteemed noblemen.

Inscriptions showed that the woman named Senetnay was a wet nurse to the pharaoh Amenhotep II and very close to the ancient Egyptian king. After all, she was buried at a prestigious site and a new study showed that little expense was spared in her mummification.

In ancient Egyptian mummification, the viscera would be removed from the body and placed in separate jars along with a balm meant to preserve the organs.

A research team conducted a chemical analysis of the residue in the jars holding Senetnay’s organs.

Most embalming fluids of that period were made up of fats, oils and sap. But the ancient undertakers used a rich mixture of substances for Senetnay, which included beeswax, tree resins and even sap from larch trees – these grow in the mountains in the Mediterranean.

The team suggested that some of the ingredients came as far away as Southeast Asia.

The findings not only suggest that Senetnay was important to Amenhotep II, but also that ancient Egypt’s trade routes were more expansive than previously believed.

“We were lucky because we identified one of the richest, most complex mummification balms ever found … especially for this early time period,” added lead author Barbara Huber.

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