Welcome to Thursday, where Trump becomes first president impeached twice, China goes back into lockdown, and a 45,000-year-old wild boar makes news. We also scan what sets "Made in Africa" ID tech apart.
SPOTLIGHT: D.C. TO ROME TO KAMPALA, DEMOCRACY IS A COUNTING QUESTION
At 6 p.m. local time Wednesday in Rome, while much of the world was transfixed on Washington, D.C., Italian reporters were huddled in a vast room of the nation's Parliament to witness another political crisis unfolding.
Former Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi announced that his minor party would pull out of the government, plunging Italian politics into deep uncertainty that may only be resolved with a new snap election. Pundits accused Renzi of acting for his cynical personal interest, trying to force out Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte to make space for his own comeback to the center of the political stage. Others noted that the announcement baffled Italians, who had just heard the news that their country had recorded 507 new COVID-19 deaths that day, pushing the toll past 80,000. Some argued that the far-right would win if the country heads to the polls.
Still, with all the melodrama, this governmental "crisis" is largely politics-as-usual in Italy, which has had 72 different government coalitions in the 78 years of its wobbly post-War parliamentary system. But despite all the instability, democracy itself is not in question in Italy.
Of course the "crisis" underway across the Atlantic is of another tenor, and order of magnitude. Just minutes after Renzi's announcement, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to impeach President Donald Trump — for an unprecedented second time — after the Republican leader incited a mob to block the counting of his election defeat in Congress. Five people died in the violence, and Trump continues to falsely insist that the election was "stolen" from him. The American presidential system of government, typically noted for its stability, has shown what happens when a president is particularly power-hungry. And yes, just a week before President-elect Joe Biden is slated to be inaugurated, democracy itself is in question in the U.S.
Meanwhile in Uganda, voters are heading to the polls Thursday in the aftermath of one of the most divisive election campaigns in recent history, with at least 55 people killed in related violence. The incumbent, 76-year-old Yoweri Museveni, has been in power for 34 years. The leading opposition candidate, the 34-year-old pop star turned politician Bobi Wine, said that the army killed one of his bodyguards and that he has been detained and prevented from campaigning several times. The government has also shut down the internet and banned international election observers. In Uganda, democracy is constantly in question.
A celebrated Italian political theorist, Norberto Bobbio, once remarked that democracy is a process by which heads are not chopped, but counted. It's always a good reminder of how crucial it is to respect the counting.
— Alessio Perrone
THE SITUATION: 7 THINGS TO KNOW RIGHT NOW
• Capitol riot aftermath: Donald Trump becomes the first president in U.S. history to be impeached twice, charged with inciting an insurrection on the Capitol. Meanwhile Airbnb blocks Washington, D.C. reservations ahead of President-elect Joe Biden's inauguration, as unprecedented military security is called in.
• COVID-19 latest: A WHO team of scientists has arrived in China to investigate virus origins. One in five English hospitals has hit capacity, Spain breaks an October record with 39,000 new cases reported yesterday, and Pope Francis fulfills "'ethical duty" to receive the vaccine.
• Ugandan elections: After a violent campaign with attacks on media and human rights advocates, Ugandans hit the polls amid an internet blackout. Yoweri Museveni is pursuing a sixth term against a former pop star half his age.
• Italian political crisis: Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte announces the resignation of two ministers over disagreements on allocating the 209 billion euro ($254 billion) EU pandemic recovery fund.
• Hong Kong arrests: Police in Hong Kong arrest 11 people suspected of helping a group of 12 pro-democracy activists, 10 of whom were subsequently arrested by China, in a failed attempt to flee the country.
• Tesla recall: The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has asked Elon Musk to recall 158,000 cars over potential failure of display consoles.
• Oldest animal art: Scientists in Indonesia have discovered what appears to be the world's oldest painting depicting animals, dating back at least 45,000 years. The paintings of three wild boar were discovered in a limestone cave on the island of Sulawesi.
USA Today devotes its front page to Donald Trump's second impeachment after the House voted to formally charge the president with "incitement of insurrection" for his role in the Capitol Hill riots.
HOW FACIAL RECOGNITION TECHNOLOGY IS DIFFERENT IN AFRICA
There's a reason many Africans are wary of the identification technology: It doesn't work as well for people with dark skin. That's where Charlette N'Guessan, a young Ivorian researcher, comes in, writes Marie de Vergès in French daily Le Monde.
In 2018, 27-year-old Charlette N'Guessan joined forces with three other computer engineers. The start-up they founded has developed its own software, Bace API. To ensure that it would perform well with dark skin tones and be adaptable to the local market, the team relied on a very diverse data set, including a large sample of sub-Saharan African faces.
The development of this solution is intended to respond to very concrete issues. In 2017, cybercrimes cost African economies $3.5 billion, according to the Kenyan-based consulting firm Serianu. "Cybersecurity is a problem everywhere in Africa and even more so in the financial sector, because in our countries we have gone directly from cash to digital," says N'Guessan.
Ghanaian financial institutions are facing a massive problem of identity theft, and are losing hundreds of millions of dollars per year as a result, according to N'Guessan and her colleagues. To help combat the problem, Bace API provides banks and FinTech companies with a system to verify the identity of customers remotely using "live" (moving) photos to ensure that the person is real and not a robot.
At present, Africa is lagging behind in the creation of start-ups and AI technologies. A Stanford University report suggests that as of 2018, the bulk of AI investment was concentrated in 20 countries around the world. Not one of those countries is in Africa. "We need more 'made in Africa' solutions instead of products from elsewhere," says N'Guessan.
➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com here.
China has put Shijiazhuang, Xingtai and Langfang (three cities in northern China's Hebei Province) under lockdown, following a new COVID-19 outbreak and the first death in months. The three cities are home to more than 22 million people.
Russia is my country, Moscow is my city, and I miss them.
— Russian opposition Aleksei Navalny has announced on social media that he was returning to his country at the end of this week for the first time since he was poisoned last year by a nerve agent. The activist has since been recovering in Germany from the assassination attempt he and Western officials claimed was organized by the Russian government.
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