The World Today for March 07, 2024

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The Language of Families

IRELAND

Irish voters will cast ballots in a nationwide referendum on March 8 – International Women’s Day – to determine how their country’s constitution depicts families and motherhood.

Advocates are seeking to alter the constitution in the largely Catholic, Western European nation to reflect more progressive perspectives. One of the two questions on the ballot would, if accepted, redefine families to include units where marriage is not necessarily required. The other is the ‘care amendment’. Prime Minister Leo Varadkar is supporting both.

Former Irish President Mary McAleese, who supports a ‘yes’ vote on both questions, argued that the constitution didn’t recognize civil partnerships or families outside marriage. Opponents of this revision, like Sarah O’Reilly of the conservative Aontu political party, said it would sow chaos, wrote the Journal.ie, as the courts work to determine whether couples should be considered as friends, partners, or families.

The second referendum question on care would alter a provision dedicated to protecting a traditional vision of Irish motherhood.

“By her life within the home, woman gives to the State a support without which the common good cannot be achieved,” states the Irish constitution at present, explained the Irish Examiner. “The State shall, therefore, endeavor to ensure that mothers shall not be obliged by economic necessity to engage in labor to the neglect of their duties in the home.”

Critics of this language see it as dangerously assigning a specific social function to women, wrote London South Bank University historian Caitriona Beaumont in the Conversation, noting that the Catholic Church’s influence in the Irish constitution runs deep. The document banned abortion until 2018, critics note.

Advocates would cut the reference to home duties and insert a new line: “The State recognizes that the provision of care, by members of a family to one another by reason of the bonds that exist among them, gives to Society a support without which the common good cannot be achieved, and shall strive to support such provision.”

These changes would simply remove the gender stipulations while still affording rights to mothers and women who care for family members, Irish Electoral Commission Justice Marie Baker told RTÉ.

Writing in the Guardian, Irish author Dearbhail McDonald noted that, while the constitution’s language is outdated, at least it acknowledges the humble but essential tasks that women perform in the home to keep society running. Irish officials would need to do more than change a few sentences, however, McDonald argued, to end misogyny and stereotypes in the country.

THE WORLD, BRIEFLY

Ain’t Misbehavin’

PERU

Peru’s prime minister resigned Tuesday after he was allegedly heard in a leaked recording attempting to give government contracts to his mistress, kicking off yet another political crisis in the country which has seen six presidents in the past six years, the BBC reported.

Over the weekend, a local television network aired the audio clips reportedly of Prime Minister Alberto Otárola, 56, and a woman identified as Yaziré Pinedo, 25.

Pinedo won two contracts worth $14,000 from the Defense Ministry last year. Otárola was the head of the ministry until President Dina Boluarte tasked him with leading the government at the end of 2022. In the recording, he allegedly was heard asking Pinedo for her CV and saying he loved her.

Pinedo admitted having had a short relationship with Otárola, who is married with five children, Al Jazeera noted. Nonetheless, both said the conversation was from 2021, before Otárola was appointed cabinet minister.

As a formal probe was launched into the allegations, the prime minister denied the accusations. In his resignation speech, he accused political opponents of editing the audio as part of a plot to tarnish his image.

He justified his resignation by saying he wanted to give the president “tranquility” ahead of reshuffling her cbinet. Boluarte had ordered Otárola to return from his official visit to Canada after the scandal broke.

Peruvian law provides that one cabinet minister’s departure triggers the resignation of the entire 18-member cabinet. The president then has the option to reinstate them.

The scandal and ensuing resignation are the latest of a long series of government reshuffles for Boluarte, who has faced one crisis after another. She inherited Peru’s top job in 2022 from the left-leaning Pedro Castillo, who was deposed and arrested after trying to dissolve parliament and rule by decree.

The ensuing protests calling on her to step down led to a crackdown by the authorities that killed at least 50 people, according to Human Rights Watch. Investigations into Boluarte’s actions and the deaths continue.

Meanwhile, local polls show that 75 percent of Peruvians want President Boluarte to resign, wrote the Council on Foreign Relations, which itself would lead to the seventh president since 2018.

Round Two

RUSSIA

The International Criminal Court (ICC) issued warrants this week for two Russian military leaders accused of war crimes in Ukraine, the second time the Netherlands-based court has ordered the arrest of Moscow officials since the conflict began two years ago, the Washington Post reported.

Tuesday’s warrants targeted Lt. Gen. Sergei Ivanovich Kobylash and Adm. Viktor Kinolayevich Sokolov: At the time of the alleged crimes, Kobylash was serving as the commander of long-range aviation of the aerospace force in Russia’s armed forces, while Sokolov was commander of the Russian navy’s Black Sea fleet.

The ICC’s pretrial chamber found that the two suspects are responsible for the missile attacks carried out against Ukraine’s electricity infrastructure from October 2022 to March 2023.

It alleged that the military commanders directed strikes at civilian objects and caused excessive incidental harm to civilians or damage to civilian objects – both war crimes under the Rome Statute, the international treaty that founded the ICC.

Kobylash and Sokolov are also accused of inhumane acts, a crime against humanity under the statute.

The latest arrest orders come a year after the ICC issued warrants for a number of Russian officials, including President Vladimir Putin, for war crimes of the “unlawful deportation” and “unlawful transfer” of children from occupied areas.

Even so, Russia does not recognize the jurisdiction of the Hague-based tribunal and the court does not try people in absentia.

Analysts said that while the earlier warrants had mostly a symbolic impact, they have limited Putin’s travel to countries that recognize the ICC’s jurisdiction.

Last year, the Russian leader skipped the BRICS summit in South Africa shortly after the warrants were made public.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy welcomed the new warrants, but Kremlin officials reiterated that Russia does not recognize the ICC’s jurisdiction, Reuters added.

Dishing Out Blame

ISRAEL

An investigation into Israel’s worst civilian disaster found that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “bears personal responsibility” for the 2021 stampede that killed 45 Jewish pilgrims in northern Israel, Agence France-Presse reported Wednesday.

In April 2021, tens of thousands of ultra-Orthodox Jews gathered for an annual pilgrimage to the tomb of second-century Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai on Mount Meron.

The stampede is believed to have originated in the male section of the gender-segregated crowd as individuals traversed a narrow passageway, which ultimately turned into a deadly chokepoint.

In its report published Wednesday, the inquiry commission found that from 2008 until the stampede, Netanyahu’s office was repeatedly informed of potential hazards caused by high traffic around the tomb, yet no action was taken.

Netanyahu was in power for 12 of those years.

The report accused the prime minister of neglecting the poorly cared-for site and failing to act as expected of a prime minister to prevent the disaster.

Even so, the commission did not recommend any measures against Netanyahu, citing the “unique” nature of his elected role.

Following the findings, opposition leader Yair Lapid called on Netanyahu to resign, warning that “the next disaster is only a matter of time.”

The inquiry began shortly after Netanyahu was replaced by former Prime Minister Naftali Bennett in June 2021 following that year’s election.

Meanwhile, the report also attributed personal responsibility to parliament speaker Amir Ohana, who oversaw the police at the time, and recommended against reappointing him as public security minister.

It also recommended dismissing Israeli police chief Yaakov Shabtai.

DISCOVERIES

A Dark Past

Violence is ubiquitous throughout human history: Now, a new study on Stone Age Europeans is showing that farmer-settler groups brutally wiped out nomadic hunter-gatherers thousands of years ago, Science Alert reported.

To arrive at this conclusion, an international research team conducted a thorough DNA analysis of human remains spanning more than 7,300 years in southern Scandinavia, covering the periods between the Middle Stone Age and Early Bronze Age, which respectively showed a decline in hunter-gatherer lifestyle and the rise of farming life.

The findings suggest that the transition involved two significant population turnovers within a thousand years.

At first, farming communities drove out existing hunters, foragers and fishing populations in those areas around 5,900 years ago. These settlers – known as the Funnelbeaker culture – also altered their environment, such as clearing forests to create farmland.

But the Funnelbeakers lasted for another millennium before another wave of newcomers from the eastern Steppes replaced them – later establishing a whole new group called the Single Grave culture.

Remarkably, the DNA analysis showed a near-complete replacement of the previous populations in both instances, indicating widespread demographic shifts and limited genetic continuity between successive cultures.

Study author Anne Birgitte Nielsen underscored the significance of these findings in understanding the complex dynamics of human migrations and cultural interactions in prehistoric Europe.

“This transition has previously been presented as peaceful,” she explained. “However, our study indicates the opposite. In addition to violent death, it is likely that new pathogens from livestock finished off many gatherers.”

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