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Human rights activists demand the safe return of Ricardo Lagunes and Antonio Díaz, community defenders who disappeared on January 15. Mexico City, Mexico, January 22, 2023.

Photo by Luis Barron / Eyepix Group/Sipa USA via Reuters Connect

Hard Numbers: Environmentalists targeted, World Bank outlook improves, mass shooting in Louisville, fiery cocktails in Northern Ireland, Winnie-the-Pooh gets punched

24: This year alone, at least two dozen environmental activists have already been murdered or disappeared in Mexico and Central America, according to an investigation by The Guardian. Many are from indigenous communities protesting against mining activities on their traditional lands.

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U.S. President Joe Biden delivers remarks after the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank (SVB) and Signature Bank in Washington, D.C., March 13, 2023.

REUTERS/Evelyn Hockstein

SVB collapse: Don’t say the B-word

US President Joe Biden on Monday addressed the nation to assure Americans that, whatever the fallout from the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank, their deposits and the entire banking industry are both "safe."

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Israelis demonstrate during "Day of Resistance" as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's nationalist coalition government presses on with its contentious judicial overhaul, in Tel Aviv, Israel.

REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun

What We’re Watching: Chaos in Israel, Franco-British thaw, Trump's deepening legal woes, Biden’s budget battle

Israel’s unraveling

The situation in Israel continued to unravel on Thursday when protesters against the government’s planned judicial overhaul took to the streets in a national “day of resistance.” In a bid to create a balagan (state of chaos), Israelis blocked the Ayalon Highway, a main artery leading to Tel Aviv’s international airport, to try to disrupt PM Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu’s planned trip to Rome (he got out)! Indeed, footage shows police using heavy-handed tactics to break up the crowds, but that didn’t appear tough enough for far-right National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir, who proceeded to fire the Tel Aviv district commander, decrying police for “not fulfilling my orders.” Israel's attorney general has since ordered the freezing of the police chief's ouster, citing legal concerns. Meanwhile, in a very rare emotional speech, President Isaac Herzog – who holds a mostly ceremonial position and remains above the fray of day-to-day politics – urged the government to ditch the judicial reforms. Crucially, things took a turn for the worse Thursday night when a Palestinian gunman opened fire on gatherers in central Tel Aviv, wounding at least three people. With deepening twin crises at home – a constitutional catastrophe and deteriorating security situation – Bibi is going to have a harder time than ever keeping his discordant far-right coalition intact.

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A mock 10 baht banknote bearing an illustration of a yellow duck instead of the Thai king or his predecessor is pictured in Bangkok on Nov. 25, 2020.

Kyodo via Reuters Connect

Hard Numbers: Thai royal canard, Biden’s deficit plan, Japan’s gender pay gap, golden Odin, Greek walkout

2: Prepare to read the next sentence twice. A man in Thailand is facing two years in jail for selling calendars of … rubber ducks. The squeaky fowl has long been a symbol of the country’s pro-democracy movement, and since these birds were dressed in royal regalia, authorities say they insulted the monarchy. The country’s defamation laws have been used to convict 200 people since 2020.

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A young woman lies in hospital after reports of poisoning at an unspecified location in Iran in this still image from video from March 2, 2023.

Reuters

Hard Numbers: Iranian schoolgirls poisoned, Macron declares Françafrique “over,” Biden tries to tackle fraud, a rare miracle in southern Turkey

17: The Iranian government says it’s investigating a spate of alleged poisonings of schoolgirls, with at least 17 hospitalized in Tehran and elsewhere this week, adding to the hundreds of girls hospitalized in recent months. Masih Alinejad, who recently appeared on GZERO World, says that many Iranians believe the Islamic Republic is behind the attacks and is using them to punish school girls who recently came out in droves to protest the government.

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Protestors gather outside the U.S. Supreme Court ahead of the oral arguments in two cases that challenge President Joe Biden's $400 billion student loan forgiveness plan.

Megan Smith-USA TODAY via Reuters Connect

What We’re Watching: SCOTUS mulling student debt relief, Blinken visiting Central Asia, Biden's partial TikTok ban, Petro’s post-honeymoon phase

US Supreme Court weighs student loan forgiveness

The US Supreme Court began hearing arguments on Tuesday in a pair of cases that will test the limitations of presidential power and could derail Joe Biden’s plan to forgive $400 billion in student debt. Biden campaigned on debt relief, promising to help families burdened by the pandemic-fueled economic crisis. But now the court will decide whether Biden has the authority to forgive student loans. The White House cites a 2003 law aimed at alleviating hardship suffered by federal student loan recipients following a national emergency, but opponents say debt relief should require congressional approval. Biden hopes to fulfill his campaign promise ahead of next year’s presidential race, and millions of millennials and Gen-Z scholars – many of whom could see up to $20,000 of their federal student loan debt wiped away – will be waiting with bated breath. A decision will drop before the court adjourns in June, but so far, justices in the conservative majority seem critical of Biden’s move.

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Protesters against President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador's plan to reform the electoral authority, in Mexico City, Mexico, February 26, 2023.

REUTERS/Luis Cortes

Hard Numbers: Mexicans protest AMLO changes, North Korea seeks grain, Iran hearts Ipanema, a controversial kiss from Kosovo

500,000 or 90,000?: How many people in Mexico City took part in recent mass protests against President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador’s overhaul of the electoral system? Organizers say 500,000 turned out to oppose the changes, which would weaken independent election oversight. But authorities in Mexico City, which is controlled by AMLO’s party, say it was only 90,000.

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Electoral campaign posters are seen ahead of Nigeria's Presidential elections, in Yola, Nigeria, February 23, 2023.

REUTERS/Esa Alexander

What We're Watching: Nigerians vote, Biden's World Bank pick

Nigeria's presidential election head-scratcher

Nigerians go to the polls Saturday to vote in what is being billed as the most open presidential election in Africa's most populous country since democracy was restored in 1999. That's mostly thanks to buzz about Peter Obi, a third-party candidate who's leading most polls ahead of both Bola Ahmed Tinubu, the ruling party's pick, and opposition candidate Atiku Abubakar. With almost half the electorate undecided, Obi faces tough odds. First, to win outright, he must get the most votes nationwide and at least 25% in at least two-thirds of Nigeria's 36 states – but he doesn’t have strong party machinery to turn out voters. Second, if no candidate meets both conditions, the election goes to a runoff between the most-voted for candidate and — here's where it gets complicated — the one who placed second in the highest number of states. Also, keep an eye out for the rollout of machines to verify biometric voter ID to curb fraud. If the devices malfunction or are not widely deployed, expect many Nigerians to consider the election anything but free and fair.

Interested in the Nigerian election? Listen to Amaka Anku, head of Eurasia Group’s Africa practice, on this GZERO podcast in collaboration with The Center for Global Development podcast.

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