Connect with us

International

Mexican President’s Power Slips During the Country’s Bloodiest Election Season in Recent History

Published

on

Reports of increased political violence this midterm season include the killings of nearly 80 candidates, as well as the harassment of voters at booths across the country.


Backtrack for AMLO

Mexico’s ruling coalition suffered an electoral defeat in the midterm elections on Sunday after losing upwards of 60 seats in the lower house of Congress. The loss marked a rebuke of legislative goals set by President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who is better known as AMLO.

The results aren’t a complete defeat as early tallies indicate that the ruling coalition is still expected to maintain a simple majority in Congress, holding between upwards of 292 out of 500 seats.

The loss of up to 60 seats means that AMLO will lose his super majority and thus won’t be able to pass major legislative and constitutional reforms without convincing some opposition parties. Among the biggest changes AMLO wanted to enact were plans to return Mexico’s energy sector to state control. That now seems like an unlikely prospect.

A possible silver lining for AMLO’s Morena party is that it’s expected to win major local elections all across Mexico, further cementing its role in politics — something it has sought to do as a relatively new party that lacked local power structures and was only formed 10 years ago.

Political Violence

Aside from its results, Mexico’s election has caught international attention because it was among the bloodiest in recent history. During voting on Sunday, a severed head was thrown at a voting station in Tijuana. Plastic bags with other body parts were also found nearby, presumably from the same victim. Authorities are unclear what message the head was supposed to send, as no slogans or anything else was said when the act was done.

That is just one incident of many during election day itself. In the state of Mexico, not to be confused with the entire country, someone threw an inert grenade into a voting center to scare voters. People dispersed but then returned. One voter, who wished to remain anonymous, told Reuters, “People said that they would vote, and that they would not be intimidated.”

In the state of Sinaloa, the Sinaloa Cartel robbed an election center of its voting materials, although it’s clear why they did so. Overall, violence hasn’t been contained to election day and has been going on for months. According to data released late in May by the security firm Etellekt, 79 politicians have been killed and were 443 attacked in this election season alone.

In total, Etellekt claims that 198 have died during the election season, including public workers and those associated with politicians. Small-town politicians are the most targeted, likely because they lack large protection details. Additionally, controlling local politics is less likely to make national news and often turns out better for organized crime in the long run. Etellekt’s data shows that these groups don’t seem to have a preference for a party, as nearly half of those killed have been from either the ruling coalition or the opposition.

The violence may indicate a rebuke of AMLO’s policy of not engaging cartels in the hope that violence would die down.

Despite the rise in politically motivated deaths, the overall homicide rate in Mexico went down in 2020, and for the first time in five years, according to the Institute for Economics and Peace, more Mexican states improved rather than deteriorated in peacefulness.

See what others are saying: (Reuters) (The New York Times) (CNN)

International

U.K. Court Rules Julian Assange Can Be Extradited to U.S.

Published

on

The judgment overrules a lower court decision that blocked the WikiLeaks founder’s extradition on the grounds that his mental health was not stable enough to weather harsh conditions in the American prison system if convicted.


New Developments in Assange Extradition Battle

A British court ruled Friday that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange can be extradited to the United States to face charges of violating the Espionage Act that could land him in prison for decades.

Prosecutors in the U.S. have accused Assange of conspiring with former army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning in 2010 to hack into a Department of Defense computer network and access thousands of military and diplomatic records on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The information obtained in the hack was later published by WikiLeaks in 2010 and 2011, a move U.S. authorities allege put lives in danger.

In addition to a charge of computer misuse, Assange has also been indicted on 17 espionage charges. Collectively, the charges carry a maximum prison sentence of 175 years.

The Friday decision from the High Court overturns a lower court ruling in January, which found that Assange’s mental health was too fragile for the harsh environment he could face in the U.S. prison system if convicted.

Notably, the January ruling did not determine whether or not Assange was guilty. In fact, District Judge Vanessa Baraitser explicitly rejected the defense’s arguments that the charges against him were politically motivated and that he should be protected under freedom of press.

However, she agreed that the defense had provided compelling evidence that Assange suffers from severe depression and that the conditions he could face in the U.S. prison system were “such that it would be oppressive to extradite him to the United States of America.”

The U.S. appealed the ruling, arguing that Assange’s mental health should not be a barrier to extradition and that the psychiatrist who examined him had been biased. 

In October, the Biden administration vowed that if Assange were to be convicted, he would not be placed in the highest-security U.S. prison or immediately sent to solitary confinement. Officials also said that the native Australian would be eligible to serve his sentence in his home country.

High Court Ruling

The High Court agreed with the administration’s arguments in its ruling, arguing that the American’s assurances regarding the conditions of Assange’s potential incarceration were “sufficient.” 

“There is no reason why this court should not accept the assurances as meaning what they say,” the ruling stated. “There is no basis for assuming that the USA has not given the assurances in good faith.”

Assange’s fiancé, Stella Moris, said in a statement that his legal team would appeal the decision to the British Supreme Court at the “earliest possible moment,” referring to the judgment as a “grave miscarriage of justice.”

The Supreme Court will now decide whether or not to hear the case based on if it believes the matter involves a point of law “of general public importance.” That decision may take weeks or even months.

If the U.K. Supreme Court court objects to hearing Assange’s appeal, he could ask the European Court of Human Rights to stay the extradition — a move that could set in motion another lengthy legal battle in the already drawn-out process.

Assange and his supporters claim he was acting as an investigative journalist when he published the classified military cables. They argue that the possibility of his extradition and prosecution represent serious threats to press freedoms in the U.S.

U.S. prosecutors dispute that Assange acted as a journalist, claiming that he encouraged illegal hacking for personal reasons.

See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (NPR) (The Washington Post)

Continue Reading

International

Early Data Indicates Omicron is More Transmissible But Less Severe

Published

on

The studies come as Pfizer and BioNTech claim that preliminary research shows a third shot of their COVID vaccine appears to provide sufficient protection against the new variant, but two doses alone may not.


More Information About Omicron

Several preliminary studies published in recent days appear to show that the new omicron COVID-19 variant may be more transmissible but less severe than previous strains.

One recent, un-peer-reviewed study by a Japanese scientist who advises the country’s health ministry found that omicron is four times more transmissible in its initial stage than delta was.

Preliminary information in countries hit hard by omicron also indicates high transmissibility. In South Africa —  where the variant was first detected and is already the dominant strain — new COVID cases have more than doubled over the last week.

Health officials in the U.K. said omicron cases are doubling every two or three days, and they expect the strain to become dominant in the country in a matter of weeks.

In a statement Wednesday, World Health Organization Director Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that while early data does seem to show high transmissibility, it also indicates that omicron causes more mild cases than delta.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevent Director Rochelle Walensky echoed that sentiment, telling reporters that of the 40 known omicron cases in the U.S. as of Wednesday, nearly all of them were mild. One person has been hospitalized so far and none have died.

Studies on Vaccine Efficacy 

Other recent studies have shown that current COVID vaccines are effective at preventing severe illness and death in omicron patients, and boosters provide at least some added protection.

On Wednesday, Pfizer and BioNTech announced that laboratory tests have shown a third dose of their COVID-19 vaccine appears to provide sufficient protection against the omicron variant, though two doses may not.

According to the companies, researchers saw a 25-fold reduction in neutralizing antibodies for omicron compared to other strains of the virus for people who had just two Pfizer doses. 

By contrast, samples from people one month after they had received a Pfizer booster presented neutralizing antibodies against omicron that were comparable to those seen against previous variants after two doses.

Still, Pfizer’s chief executive also told reporters later in the day that omicron could increase the likelihood that people might need a fourth dose earlier than previously expected, which he had initially said was 12 months after the third shot.

Notably, the Pfizer research has not yet been peer-reviewed, and it remains unclear how omicron will operate outside a lab, but other studies have had similar findings.

See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (Bloomberg) (NBC News)

Continue Reading

International

40 Camels Disqualified From Beauty Contest After Breeders Inject Their Faces With Botox

Published

on

The animals were barred from competing for $66 million in prizes at this year’s King Abdulaziz Camel Festival in Saudi Arabia.


Camels Booted From Beauty Contest

More than 40 camels were disqualified from a beauty contest in Saudi Arabia this week after judges found artificial enhancements in their faces, marking the biggest crackdown on contestants in the competition to date.

The animals were competing for $66 million in prizes at the King Abdulaziz Camel Festival, a month-long event that is estimated to include around 33,000 camels.

However, according to The Guardian, they were forced out of the contest when authorities found that breeders had “stretched out the lips and noses of the camels, used hormones to boost the animals’ muscles, injected heads and lips with Botox to make them bigger, inflated body parts with rubber bands, and used fillers to relax their faces.”

Those types of alterations are banned since judges look at the contestant’s heads, necks, humps, posture, and other features when evaluating them.

An announcement from the state-linked Saudi Press Agency said officials used “specialized and advanced” technology to detect tampering.

“The club is keen to halt all acts of tampering and deception in the beautification of camels,” the SPA report added before warning that organizers would “impose strict penalties on manipulators.”

While it’s unclear what that actually entails, this isn’t the first time people have tried to cheat in this way.

In 2018, 12 camels were similarly disqualified from the competition for injections in their noses, lips, and jaw.

See what others are saying: (Insider) (The Guardian) (ABC News)

Continue Reading