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60-year-old Alejandra Rodriguez represented the Argentinian province of Buenos Aires in the Miss Argentina 2024 beauty pageant.

DPA via Reuters

Hard Numbers: Argentina’s best face, Deadly US storms, Terror in Nigeria, Monarchy defamation in Thailand, Social media scrub in China

60: Age before beauty? Not anymore – now the two go hand in hand. Alejandra Rodriguez, a 60-year-old Argentine beauty queen, became the first sexagenarian to win the title of Miss Buenos Aires. Although she didn’t snag the crown of Miss Argentina – that went to Magalí Benejam – Rodriguez won the “best face” category. “This is the first step of a change that is coming,” she declared, celebrating the Miss Universe rule change that allowed women of any age to compete.

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Thailand's dystopian election
Reuters

Thailand votes for change

Opposition parties won Thailand's general election, according to a provisional tally released Monday. It was a particularly good day for the progressive Move Forward Party, which promised to curb the power of the army and decentralize the country’s Byzantine bureaucracy. MFP now looks set to win at least 151 seats in the 500-seat lower house.

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A protester is seen with face paint reading "cancel lèse-majesté law" during the protest. Pro-democracy protesters gathered at Ratchaprasong Junction in demand of Prayut Chan-O-Cha resignation and lèse-majesté law (Thai Criminal Code section 112) cancellation.

Phobthum Yingpaiboonsuk / SOPA Images/Sipa USA

What We’re Watching: Thai monarchy ruling, weed vs coke in Colombia, Moroccan olive twig

Don't mess with the Thai king. A Thai court has ruled that calls by three youth protest leaders to reform the monarchy are an unconstitutional attempt to overthrow the country's political system. Although the verdict is symbolic and won't carry a jail term, it paves the way for the activists to be tried for treason, which is punishable by death. But it's also a double-edged sword. On the one hand, the ruling is a clear warning shot to the youth-led protest movement that last year shocked Thailand by for the first time openly questioning the role of the king, a taboo subject until then. On the other, actually executing protest leaders could turn them into martyrs, driving more of their followers into the streets to face off against government forces. Regardless, the controversial notion of curbing the king's powers is now at the very center of Thai politics: it's the inevitable future for millennials and zoomers, a third-rail issue for mainstream political parties, and a non-starter for the all-powerful Rama X himself.

Can medical weed bring down the high of Colombia's cocaine industry? After decades of trying to stamp out a coca industry that has fueled violence and conflict, the Colombian government is looking to cannabis for help. President Iván Duque wants to boost the cultivation of medical marijuana as a more lucrative, eco-friendly, and less socially-damaging substitute crop for Colombian farmers. Duque, a strong opponent of decriminalizing drugs, made clear that the strategy would apply only to growing cannabis for medical rather than recreational use. He also continues to advocate aerial spraying as a means of eradicating coca crops, despite questions about the effectiveness and environmental impact of this approach. Coca cultivation in Colombia has reached record highs in recent years, as drug cartels have benefited from the poor implementation of Colombia's historic 2016 peace deal with FARC rebels, taking over drug-producing areas of the country that those militants once controlled.

An olive twig from Morocco to Algeria. Tensions between Morocco and Algeria have flared recently, over Algiers' support for separatists in Western Sahara, a former Spanish colony that Morocco considers its own territory. For half a century now, the militants of the Polisario Front have been waging a struggle for independent control over the region, a resource-rich swath of land blessed with plentiful fisheries that lies along a critical trade route for Morocco. Algeria has long backed the rebels as a way to needle Morocco. Earlier this year, Western Sahara figured prominently in a dispute between Morocco and Spain over migration flows to Europe. But in August, Algeria cut ties with Rabat over the issue, and last week accused Moroccan forces of killing three Algerian civilians in the area. Against that backdrop, Morocco now says it wants to "turn the page" on tensions with Algeria. But it also says that its demand for sovereignty over Western Sahara — only recognized by the US — is "legitimate" and non-negotiable. That's not quite an olive branch, but we'll call it a twig and see how this plays out.

A protester is seen wearing a face mask with a sticker reading "Chase Prayuth" and raising a three finger salute during a demonstration against the Thai prime minister.

Chaiwat Subprasom / SOPA Images/Sipa USA

What We’re Watching: Thais protest against PM, Taliban government, India (again) shutters Kashmir, Suga out

Thai PM under pressure: Thousands of Thais took to the streets of Bangkok on Thursday to call for the resignation of embattled PM Prayuth Chan-ocha, who faces a no-confidence vote — his third in 18 months — on Saturday. For over a year, the retired general and 2014 coup leader — who's popular among older Thais, cozy with the business elite, and ultra-loyal to the king — has stared down a youth-led movement demanding broad democratic reforms, including, for the first time ever, curbing the powers of the monarchy. Now, the protesters want Prayuth out because Thailand has been badly hit by COVID while barely 11 percent of the population has been fully vaccinated — perhaps because the government is relying heavily on domestic jab production by a company owned by the royal family that has no previous experience in manufacturing vaccines. Prayuth will survive because he has enough votes in parliament, but the pressure on him from Thailand's emboldened youth won't go away.

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Happy US Independence Day! Now can you sing it?

When the United States celebrates its Independence Day on July 4th, many Americans will be singing the Star-Spangled Banner at sports games, parties, and other patriotic-themed events. To mark the date, we take a look at some fun facts about national anthems around the world.

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