DILMA LOSES IMPEACHMENT VOTE
More than the necessary two-thirds of the Brazilian lower house of Congress voted in favor of starting impeachment proceedings against President Dilma Rousseff. O Globo reports on yesterdayâ€™s momentous proceedings, as Brazilâ€™s first woman president faces accusations that she manipulated budget figures to secure her reelection in late 2014. A total of 367 deputies voted for impeachment, 25 more than the required minimum, with 137 voting against. Rousseff, who lost a last-minute attempt to block the vote, â€œwonâ€™t stop the fight,â€ attorney general José Eduardo Cardozo commented, adding the president would speak publicly later today. â€œIf anybody thinks sheâ€™s going to bow, theyâ€™re wrong,â€ Folha de S. Paulo quotes him as saying.
- WHAT NEXT?
The case will now be debated in the Senate, where a vote is expected to take place next month. If a simple majority of 41 (out of 81) senators votes for impeachment, Dilma, who has repeatedly described the proceeding as a â€œcoup,â€ could be suspended for up to six months. If more than two-thirds support it, her mandate will come to an end. According to Folha, at least 47 senators have already declared themselves in favor of impeachment. In case she is removed, her opponent and vice-president Michel Temer will take over, although he faces impeachments proceedings too. Next in line would be the lower house speaker Eduardo Cunha, often described as Rousseffâ€™s â€œarch-enemyâ€ and accused of having hidden millions in bribes in a Swiss account.
- THE ALTERNATIVE
Political reporter Mônica Bergamo writes in Folha de S. Paulo that Dilmaâ€™s Workersâ€™ Party, which has held power since 2003, is considering a daring backup plan: The president would resign, regardless of the Senateâ€™s ruling, and call for a new presidential election, with a twist. Since sheâ€™d be resigning two years before the end of her four-year term, her successor would be elected for a six-year and non-renewable mandate. The official narrative would be that this is the only way to bring back much-needed legitimacy and stability to crisis-hit Brazil. Though the article doesnâ€™t mention him, this could be former leader Lulaâ€™s chance to return to the presidency.
- See how Folha de S. Paulo covered the news on its front page here.
EARTHQUAKE DEATH TOLL RISES IN ECUADOR
Photo: Jose Jacome/EFE/ZUMA
The death toll of the magnitude-7.8 earthquake that struck Ecuador on Saturday has risen to 272, with more than 2,000 injured, and many more believed to be trapped in the rubble, newspaper La Hora reports. In the touristic city of Pedernales, described as a â€œground zeroâ€ by the newspaper, 80% of the cityâ€™s buildings have been damaged by the tremors, with some entirely destroyed. President Rafael Correa, who was in Europe when the earthquake happened, declared a nationwide state of emergency. â€œThe pain is very large, the tragedy is very large, but we'll find the way to move forward. If our pain is immense, still larger is the spirit of our people,â€ he said.
- In Japan meanwhile, close to 250,000 people have been told to leave their homes amid fears that another earthquake could hit soon. At least 42 people have died after Saturday's magnitude-7.3 quake, with another 11 still reported missing. Scientists are studying whether the two earthquakes, in Japan and Ecuador, could be related.
â€œThe Sanders campaign, when they talk about it, is absolutely right: It's ridiculous that we should have this kind of money in politics,â€ George Clooney told NBCâ€™s Meet The Press during a weekend when he helped Hillary Clinton and the Democratic party raise hundreds of thousands of dollars. Asked if he thought the reported figures of more than $350,000 for a couple to â€œco-chairâ€ a fundraising dinner in California were â€œobscene,â€ as Sanders supporters criticized, the actor and activist said, â€œYes. I think it's an obscene amount of money.â€ Later on CNN, Bernie Sanders praised Clooneyâ€™s â€œhonesty and integrity,â€ and said he thought the actor was backing the wrong horse. â€œOne of the great tragedies is that big money is buying elections,â€ the Vermont senator said.
La Stampa correspondent Domenico Quirico was a rare recent visitor to a once crowded Christian pilgrimage destination in the Sinai desert: the sixth-century Saint Catherineâ€™s Monastery. Increasingly, he notes, this part of Egypt is controlled by ISIS. â€œA small door opens in the medieval monastery's thick walls, as the church bells ring to announce the morning mass. A Byzantine church stands beside a mosque, cloisters and several houses, all surrounded by towering walls built at the foot of Mount Sinai. The jagged granite mountain soars into the sky overhead.
Read the full article, Journey To An Ancient Monastery Deep In Egyptâ€™s Besieged Sinai.
CRUZ WINS WYOMING WHILE TRUMP FOCUSES ON N.Y.
Republican Texas senator Ted Cruz won all 14 delegates at stake on Saturday in Wyoming. Frontrunner Donald Trump, who complained the process in Wyoming was â€œrigged,â€ instead chose to focus on his home state of New York, where he enjoys a 29% lead ahead of tomorrowâ€™s vote.
MY GRAND-PEREâ€™S WORLD
Achilles' Wheel â€" Larissa, 1961
OIL PRICES FALL AFTER OPEC MEETING ENDS WITH NO AGREEMENT
Oil prices tumbled after energy-producing countries failed to reach an agreement to freeze output at an OPEC meeting in Doha, Qatar. A deal was thought to be in the cards before the meeting, but it reportedly failed due to non-OPEC member Iranâ€™s refusal to cap its own production of oil, having just returned to the market after years of international sanctions.
DEADLY ATTACK IN ETHIOPIA
At least 208 people have died in western Ethiopia after a raid carried out on Friday by South Sudanese gunmen, who also kidnapped 108 children and took more than 2,000 head of livestock, according to Reuters. Cross-border cattle raids often happen in the region, though not on such a scale. A government spokesman said 60 of the attackers had been killed by Ethiopian forces.
ON THIS DAY
From Mount Everest to Conan O'Brien, here is your 57-second shot of history!
NORTH KOREA PREPARING NUCLEAR TEST, SOUTH SAYS
South Koreaâ€™s President Park Geun-hye said that there were signs that North Korea are preparing for a fifth nuclear bomb test. Pyongyang was hit with a series of international sanctions after it carried out a fourth test in January.
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EVOLUTION OF LAUGHTER
A new UCLA study may help explain the very practical reasons why humans have developed laughter. If you have your doubts, just try tickling a monkey.
The Saudis may be awaiting the outcome of Iran's nuclear talks with the West, to see whether Tehran will moderate its regional policies, or lash out like never before.
LONDON — The Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said earlier this month that Iranian and Saudi negotiators had so far had four rounds of "continuous" talks, though both sides had agreed to keep them private. The talks are to ease fraught relations between Iran's radical Shia regime and the Saudi kingdom, a key Western ally in the Middle East.
Iran's Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian has said that the talks were going in the right direction, while an Iranian trade official was recently hopeful these might even allow trade opportunities for Iranian businessmen in Saudi Arabia. As the broadcaster France 24 observed separately, it will take more than positive signals to heal a five-year-rift and decades of mutual suspicions.
Agence France-Presse news agency, meanwhile, has cited an unnamed French diplomat as saying that Saudi Arabia wants to end its costly discord with Tehran. The sides may already have agreed to reopen consular offices. For Saudi Arabia, the costs include its war on Iran-backed Houthis rebels fighting an UN-recognized government in next-door Yemen.
The role of the nuclear pact
Bilateral relations were severed in January 2016, after regime militiamen stormed the Saudi embassy in Tehran. Amirabdollahian was then the deputy foreign minister for Arab affairs. In 2019, he told the website Iranian Diplomacy that Saudi Arabia had taken measures vis-a-vis Iran's nuclear pact with the world powers.
It's unlikely Ali Khamenei will tolerate the Saudi kingdom's rising power in the region.
He said "the Saudis' insane conduct toward [the pact] led them to conclude that they must prevent [its implementation] in a peaceful environment ... I think the Saudis are quite deluded, and their delusion consists in thinking that Trump is an opportunity for them to place themselves on the path of conflict with the Islamic Republic while relying on Trump." He meant the administration led by the U.S. President Donald J.Trump, which was hostile to Iran's regime. This, he said, "is not how we view Saudi Arabia. I think Yemen should have been a big lesson for the Saudis."
The minister was effectively admitting the Houthis were the Islamic Republic's tool for getting back at Saudi Arabia.
Yet in the past two years, both sides have taken steps to improve relations, without firm results as yet. Nor is the situation likely to change this time.
Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei in 2020commons.wikimedia.org
Riyadh's warming relations with Israel
Iran's former ambassador in Lebanon, Ahmad Dastmalchian, told the ILNA news agency in Tehran that Saudi Arabia is doing Israel's bidding in the region, and has "entrusted its national security, and life and death to Tel Aviv." Riyadh, he said, had been financing a good many "security and political projects in the region," or acting as a "logistical supplier."
The United States, said Dastmalchian, has "in turn tried to provide intelligence and security backing, while Israel has simply followed its own interests in all this."
Furthermore, it seems unlikely Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei will tolerate, even in this weak period of his leadership, the kingdom's rising power in the region and beyond, and especially its financial clout. He is usually disparaging when he speaks of Riyadh's princely rulers. In 2017, he compared them to "dairy cows," saying, "the idiots think that by giving money and aid, they can attract the goodwill of Islam's enemies."
Iranian regime officials are hopeful of moving toward better diplomatic ties and a reopening of embassies. Yet the balance of power between the sides began to change in Riyadh's favor years ago. For the kingdom's power has shifted from relying mostly on arms, to economic and political clout. The countries might have had peaceful relations before in considerably quieter, and more equitable, conditions than today's acute clash of interests.
If nuclear talks break down, Iran's regime may become more aggressive.
Beyond this, the Abraham Accord or reconciliation of Arab states and Israel has been possible thanks to the green light that the Saudis gave their regional partners, and it is a considerable political and ideological defeat for the Islamic Republic.
Assuming all Houthis follow Tehran's instructions — and they may not — improved ties may curb attacks on Saudi interests and aid its economy. Tehran will also benefit from no longer having to support them. Unlike Iran's regime, the Saudis are not pressed for cash or resources and could even offer the Houthis a better deal. Presently, they may consider it more convenient to keep the softer approach toward Tehran.
For if nuclear talks with the West break down, Iran's regime may become more aggressive, and as experience has shown, tensions often prompt a renewal of missile or drone attacks on the Saudis, on tankers and on foreign shipping. Riyadh must have a way of keeping the Tehran regime quiet, in a distinctly unquiet time.
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