The World Today for December 07, 2023
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The Portuguese government is cracking down on so-called “digital nomads,” the remote workers who moved to foreign countries, especially during the pandemic, to take advantage of the joys of new locales, as well as liberal visa rules, favorable exchange rates, lower prices, and less burdensome tax regimes.
Recently, lawmakers in the capital of Lisbon voted to give these nomads until the end of the year to prove they moved to the southern European country before the deadline passes, reported Reuters. The generous incentives created in 2009 were designed to stimulate the Portuguese economy following the outbreak of the European sovereign debt crisis and the worldwide financial crisis.
Now, however, many Portuguese view them as unfair, especially because locals are competing with foreigners for housing, and hitting the streets in protests, wrote the Guardian. Meanwhile, as Euronews noted, locals are waiting longer for medical attention due to a shortage of doctors in the country’s national health service. Many younger Portuguese have also ironically sought better work elsewhere as foreigners have moved to the country, added Bloomberg, while companies in Portugal still struggle to hire.
As a result, the government might have a point: More than 74,000 nomads benefited from the incentives last year, costing the state treasury around $1.65 billion – almost 19 percent more than the year before.
The change has become one of the many issues stirred up when Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa resigned abruptly in early November due to corruption allegations, triggering a snap election slated for March 2024.
As the Financial Times explained, Costa quit after prosecutors issued arrest warrants and raided government offices for buildings as part of a probe of the politician’s stakes in lithium mines. Costa had been seeking to make Portugal the main domestic supplier of lithium in Europe, a lucrative business given lithium’s role in batteries for electric vehicles, cell phones and laptops.
Costa’s resignation also brought a halt to the planned privatization of TAP Air Portugal, the country’s state-owned carrier, noted Aviation Week. Large European airlines like Air France-KLM and Lufthansa have expressed interest in TAP due to its routes to Brazil and elsewhere in South America. The sale could help leverage funding for a new Lisbon airport, too.
The far right appears to be benefitting from the chaos.
European far-right luminaries met in Lisbon recently to show their support of the Chega Party – “Chega” means “Enough” in Portuguese, for example, wrote the Portuguese American Journal. Attendees were emboldened by far-right Dutch leader Geert Wilder’s success in the Netherlands’ recent election.
A Politico poll found that 15 percent of the electorate supported Chega while Costa’s Socialist Party and the lead opposition, the Social Democratic Party, enjoyed 25 percent apiece.
Meanwhile, the nomads can’t vote.
THE WORLD, BRIEFLY
Divisive, To the End
Peru’s top court ordered Tuesday the “immediate” release – defying an international court’s decision – of controversial former President Alberto Fujimori, who was imprisoned for crimes against humanity, Reuters reported.
The Peruvian Constitutional Court essentially reinstated a 2017 pardon, which was opposed by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR).
Fujimori was president of Peru from 1990 to 2000. One of the nation’s most divisive politicians, he has been both praised for reviving the country’s economy through his neo-liberal policies and criticized for his authoritarian rule, especially for sterilization campaigns targeting Indigenous communities.
He was impeached in 2000 on accusations of corruption and “moral incapacity” and lived in exile until 2007, Le Monde explained.
He was sentenced to 25 years in prison in 2009 for ordering the massacre of 25 people in 1991 and 1992 while his administration was fighting the Shining Path guerillas.
The former president, 85, has suffered from health issues, including cancer of the tongue.
In 2017, former President Pablo Kuczynski granted him a Christmas Eve pardon, launching a dramatic legal saga in which the Constitutional Court battled against local courts and the IACHR to uphold it.
For example, the Court previously issued a ruling in Fujimori’s favor in 2022, but the ruling was later suspended amid pressure from the IACHR.
Now, the ruling is irreversible.
Meanwhile, human rights groups and victims’ families expressed outrage, saying the ruling defies international organizations that have called for justice for victims of state violence.
Out of Bounds
Iran sent a capsule carrying animals into space this week, the latest feat by the country’s space program as the government prepares for human missions despite criticism from Western governments, Al Jazeera reported.
State media released a video Wednesday of an Iranian-made Salman rocket carrying the capsule, which they said was successfully sent about 80 miles into orbit.
The rocket carried a capsule weighing more than 1,000 pounds, believed to be the heaviest biological capsule ever successfully carried in the history of the Iranian space program. However, government officials did not specify which animals were inside.
Since the mid-2000s, Iran has been working on launching animals into space and successfully sent its first creatures into orbit in 2010. Three years later, the Islamic Republic said it sent two monkeys into space and brought them back.
The Iranian Space Agency announced Wednesday that the government of President Ebrahim Raisi has “effectively revived” the country’s plans to send humans into space.
Raisi’s predecessor, former centrist President Hassan Rouhani, had received criticism for gutting the country’s space program – it included the development of long-range ballistic missiles – in favor of engagement with the West to revive the 2015 nuclear deal.
That deal has fallen into limbo since 2018 when the Trump administration at the time withdrew from the agreement and imposed sanctions on Tehran.
Since then, Tehran has conducted a series of space launches, including military ones.
In September, Iran launched a data-collecting satellite into space and announced plans for new launches in the coming months.
The United States and its allies have harbored suspicions about Iran’s space program, as the same rocket technology involved can also be utilized for the development of long-range missiles, Sky News added.
The US contends that Iran’s satellite launches violate a United Nations Security Council resolution and has urged Tehran to refrain from any activity associated with ballistic missiles capable of carrying nuclear weapons.
Iran has denied the accusations, maintaining that its space and nuclear programs are peaceful.
Shedding the Past
Irish people will vote next year to expurgate sexism from the country’s 1937 constitution, a referendum aimed at modernizing Ireland’s conservative Roman Catholic charter, Politico reported.
On Tuesday, the government announced two proposed amendments to the constitutional section on family values, including the role of women in Irish society.
Ireland’s constitution originally declared that women should not be expected “to engage in labor to the neglect of their duties in the home.” But the new amendment will replace the clause with a state commitment to value the work of all family carers.
Meanwhile, the second amendment will broaden the definition of the family in Ireland to include all households “with durable relationships” – a change that also seeks to recognize unmarried couples with children born out of wedlock.
The two votes are set for March 8, which is also International Women’s Day.
The initiative marks the latest changes to the country’s constitution and another move away from the influence of the Roman Catholic Church when it was first drafted, according to Euronews.
In 1973, Ireland removed its declaration of “the special position of the Holy Catholic Apostolic and Roman Church.”
In 2015, the country made history by amending its charter to allow gay marriage, and three years later legalized abortion and removed “blasphemy” as a crime.
Irish officials welcomed the proposed changes, saying they “reflect the reality that many more diverse models of families make up our society today.”
Even so, the government chose not to introduce a new “gender equality” provision, fearing it might turn a straightforward campaign into a contentious debate on transgender rights.
According to Prime Minister Leo Varadkar, the ruling coalition concluded that the constitution already includes “an all-encompassing commitment to equality,” and further elaboration is unnecessary.
Love Is (Not) Blind
Humans notice the details of their mates that make them unique. So too do African penguins, New Scientist reported.
These creatures have spots on their chest that form a unique pattern for each specimen. The spots appear when they are around three to five months old and remain in place as they shed their feathers year after year.
A group of Italian scientists identified the spots as a core element in helping African penguins find their partner in a crowd, making it the first discovery of a visual pattern used for recognition by any bird.
And this is critical: These creatures, being the great romantics that they are, mate for life, even as they remain part of large colonies.
The scientists, meanwhile, had already conducted a series of studies on these penguins, finding in 2021 that the penguins could recognize members of their own colony by their voices and physical appearance.
During this earlier research, scientists showed life-size images of African penguins to 12 penguins in a zoo in Rome, and also presented pictures where the heads were masked, or the dots were edited out.
With or without the head, the birds appeared to be looking at the picture of their partner longer than those of others. However, when presented with a spot-less picture of their partner and another penguin, they showed no preference.
It is not known, meanwhile, whether other nomad species of penguins can similarly recognize their mates. The species studied is sedentary.
Nonetheless, scientists said that penguins should be given more credit for their intelligence.
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