Esame delle norme costituzionali sull’iniziativa legislativa popolare

Oggi in Aula l’esame della proposta di legge costituzionale (previo esame e votazione della questione pregiudiziale di costituzionalità e della questione pregiudiziale di merito presentate): Modifiche all’articolo 71 della Costituzione, in materia di iniziativa legislativa popolare, e alla legge costituzionale 11 marzo 1953, n. 1 (C. 1173-A e abb.).

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Meet Nigeria’s presidential candidates of 2019

The 2019 Nigerian presidential candidates [Collage by Nwachukwu Egbunike].

Nigeria, Africa's most populous nation, will hold presidential elections on February 16, 2019. Although there are about 35 presidential candidates, the race for Aso Rock — the seat of Nigeria's presidency — will be between two major contenders and candidates from the so-called “third force,” a group of hopefuls who are relatively new to Nigerian politics.

The two major Nigerian parties, All Progressive Congress and Peoples Democratic Party, will, of course, be fielding their candidates:

Muhammad Buhari, president of Nigeria. Creative Commons.

Muhammadu Buhari

The incumbent candidate of the All Progressive Congress, Buhari won the 2011 presidential election after defeating former president Goodluck Jonathan. Buhari's ascendance to power was based on his integrity and perceived ability to curb corruption and the Boko Haram militancy. However, under his watch, Nigeria has witnessed continued insecurity with pastoral conflicts between herders and farmers as herders from the north move further south in search of arable lands. Also, human rights have taken a nose drive in his administration, with impunity and corruption at the highest levels of government.

Atiku Abubakar [Image from Campaign Organisation Website].

Atiku Abubakar

Abubakar is the former vice president and candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party. He has tried in the past to win presidential elections but has not been successful. However, his campaign received a major boost with the reconciliation with his boss, former President Olusegun Obasanjo — who had described Buhari's administration as a failed government. As vice president, Abubakar oversaw the privatization and sale of hundreds of loss-making and poorly managed public enterprises.

A few other presidential hopefuls to watch are:

Oby Ezekwesili [Image released by campaign organizers as media resource]

Obiageli [Oby] Ezekwesili 

Ezekwesili, the only major female candidate in this year's race, served as the minister of solid minerals and later education during the presidency of Olusegun Obasanjo between 1999 to 2007. She was also former vice president of the Africa division of the World Bank from May 2007 to May 2012. Ezekwesili has been at the forefront of the call to rescue about 200 school girls who were abducted by the Boko Haram militant Islamic group in 2014. She is a co-founder of the #BringBackOurGirls (BBOG) Movement. She is also the presidential flag-bearer of the Allied Congress Party of Nigeria.

Kingsley Moghalu [Image from campaign website].

Kingsley Moghalu

Moghalu is a professor of international business and public policy at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University in Massachusetts, USA. Moghalu had previously worked in the United Nations from 1992 to 2008. He was deputy governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria from 2009 to 2014, where “he led extensive reforms in the Nigerian banking system after the global financial crisis.” He is the candidate of the Young Progressive Party.

Omoyele Sowore [Screen shot from CNBCAfrica interview, Dec 13, 2018].

Omoyole Sowore

Sowore is the founder and publisher of SaharaReporters (SR), an investigative online newspaper. SR has been described as Africa's Wikileaks. This human rights activist is running under the banner of African Action Congress.

The race is on for Nigeria's future

Buhari and Abubakar are the major contenders in this race. Both men have been constants in the political arena in Nigeria. On the other hand, Ezekwesili, Moghalu, Sowore, the “third force”, are a  group making their first entry into the partisan political space.

Buhari will be running on the “gains” of his administration over the past three years and must contend with the fac that Nigeria was recently ranked as the poverty capital of the world. The Punch newspaper described Buhari’s “parochial appointments” as “unprecedented” and has left the country deeply divided. His fight against corruption appears selective and punitive. The recent move to try the Chief Justice of the Federation — so close to the presidential election — was described by the Nigerian Bar Association as “a pattern of consistent assault on the heads of the two independent arms of government” by the Buhari administration.

Abubakar, on the other hand, is riding on the “gains” of “multiple lucrative business interests”. However, he has an uphill task considering the power of incumbency of his major opponent.

Whoever wins the 2019 elections will face enormous challenges like the strengthening the economy, internal security, restructuring power and power devolution, and ethnoreligious politics.

Written by Nwachukwu Egbunike · comments (0)
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Introducing DigiGlot, a newsletter about languages and tech

Elmo Bautista and his late father Espíritu Bautista digitally record words in the Yanesha language of Peru during a workshop organized by the Living Tongues Institute. Photo by Eddie Avila and used with permission.

Welcome to the inaugural edition of DigiGlot, a bi-weekly collaborative newsletter that reports on how indigenous, minority, and endangered language communities are adopting and adapting technology to increase the digital presence of their languages, and in the process changing the internet landscape by increasing linguistic diversity online. This collaborative publication will be compiled by a team of volunteers. The contributors will be listed at the bottom of each issue.

As this is our first issue, we expect that the format and the content of DigiGlot will evolve over the next few months. We’re always looking for reader feedback as well as suggestions for items to be included in future editions. You can get in touch with us through the Rising Voices contact page.

Tech and digital activism on the roster for the International Year of Indigenous Languages

With the arrival of 2019, the International Year of Indigenous Languages is officially underway. Back in December 2016, the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed 2019 the year for an awareness campaign coordinated by UNESCO and focusing on five areas, including capacity building and increasing international cooperation. A consortium of language-related organizations is being formed to highlight the campaign on social media using the hashtag #IYIL2019. As an additional component of the campaign, UNESCO announced a call for research papers, with one of the key topic areas being “Technology, digital activism, and artificial intelligence (e.g. language technology).”

Are “extended” Latin characters slowing the growth of African Wikipedias?

One of the immediate legacies of European colonialism in present-day Africa is a disjointed patchwork of writing systems for local languages. While many African languages have been written using the Latin alphabet for several decades, languages have varied greatly in their use of special and accented letters, or the “extended” Latin characters. Some languages were even written differently on either side of national borders. In this series of essays [parts 1, 2, 3], Don Osborn reflects on four decades of African language standardization and explains how early decisions about orthography may have consequences for digital media production today.

Osborn suggests that the challenge presented by using extended Latin orthographies—those that force users to work their way through unstandardized input interfaces to type the “special” characters in their language—may be limiting the development of some African Wikipedias. His analysis finds that African Wikipedias “written in extended and complex Latin hav[e] on average about a third the number of articles” as those Wikipedias written in a simpler Latin alphabet. While Osborn acknowledges that his analysis is preliminary, his observations usefully highlight some of the complexities of building digital ecologies in local languages.

Wikipedia's Universal Language Selector adds three West African languages

Ayokunle Odedere is a Nigerian Wikipedian and coordinator of the Wikimedia Hub in Ibadan, Nigeria. He  organizes and mobilizes activities and campaigns such as the recent AfroCine project. Working on Wikipedia, Odedere noticed that both new and experienced editors were having trouble typing the necessary diacritical marks in Wikipedia articles for national languages such as Yoruba, Hausa, and Igbo.

While there are special keyboards such as the Yoruba Name keyboards for Mac and Windows and other virtual keyboards that allow users to display these special characters, they require some degree of technical knowledge to install and utilize. Odedere envisioned a solution built into Wikipedia itself. He put in a request on the Wikimedia Community Wishlist to have Yoruba, Hausa and Igbo incorporated into the Universal Language Selector (ULS), a facility available for Wikipedia and other Wikimedia projects to “allow users to type text in different languages not directly supported by their keyboard, read content in a script for which fonts are not available locally, or customize the language in which menus are displayed.” The request was granted and the Wikimedia Foundation Language Team included the three West African languages in the ULS. Now Wikipedia editors using a desktop or laptop computer can incorporate the special characters into their texts by typing the tilde (~) character before the corresponding letter.

Modernizing Hawaiian-language text with the push of a button

The Hawaiian language has a long tradition of writing, with more than 125,000 newspaper pages published in the 19th and early 20th century. Unfortunately, most of that text was written in an orthography devised by missionaries which, unlike the standard modern orthography, doesn’t fully reflect the sound system of the language. This means that these older texts are both difficult to read for today’s speakers, and also cannot readily be used for training natural language processing systems. This paper, by researchers at the University of Oxford and Google Deep Mind, describes a system that combines so-called “finite state transducers”, a well-known technology in the field, with deep learning to develop a system for automatically modernizing Hawaiian texts. This approach could possibly be applied to the numerous other languages which have undergone orthographic changes or standardization.

Will Siri and Alexa speak Welsh someday?

The Welsh government's Welsh language minister Eluned Morgan has asserted the importance of smart speakers and voice-driven devices such as Alexa and Siri accommodating speakers of the Welsh language. This goal is part of the government's Welsh Language Technology Action Plan, which was launched on October 23, 2018.

The plan recognizes the role that technology plays in everyday life and the importance for Welsh speakers of being able to use their language when using technology: “We want people to be able to use Welsh and English easily in their virtual lives at home, in school, in work or on the move.” The Welsh Technology Language Act recommends the development of artificial intelligence so that machines can understand spoken Welsh, and the improvement of computer-assisted translation, as part of the government's wider aim of having a million Welsh speakers by 2050.

Voice recognition technologies help to document the Seneca language

A team of researchers at the Rochester Institute of Technology in the United States is developing voice recognition technology to assist with the documentation and transcription of the Seneca language. Seneca is an endangered Native American language spoken fluently by fewer than 50 individuals, hence the urgency of  documenting and preserving the language. As recording and manually transcribing speech is expensive and time-consuming, researchers are seeking to exploit voice recognition technology to assist with this task.

Voice recognition is a technological process that recognizes the sounds produced by the human voice and transcribes them automatically into written form. Develop voice recognition systems for languages with few sources of data is a challenge, as these systems requires a large amount of data to “train” them to recognize the language. For this cutting-edge research the team was awarded $181,682 over four years by the US National Science Foundation.

Upcoming Events & Opportunities

Anna Belew, Derek Lackaff, Kevin Scannell, Claudia Soria, and Eddie Avila contributed to this report with the editing assistance by Georgia Popplewell.

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Netizen Report: Zimbabwe’s internet goes dark amid protests, nationwide strike

Soldiers at an anti-Mugabe demonstration in November 2017. Photo by Zimbabwean Eyes, licensed to public domain.

The Advox Netizen Report offers an international snapshot of challenges, victories, and emerging trends in Internet rights around the world. This report covers news and events from January 3 – 16.

When the long-standing economic crisis in Zimbabwe reached a tipping point this week, social media sites went dark — and then, internet connections on two of the country’s largest providers went down altogether.

After officials announced a crippling 150 percent hike in fuel prices, trade unions and activists called for a three-day nationwide strike, urging Zimbabweans to refrain from going to work or school starting January 14. Military and security forces have used violent force against protesters and have detained at least 200 people, according to Al Jazeera. Several people have been killed and dozens were injured.

The economic crisis is the result of a massive shortage of foreign currency in the country. Zimbabwe has relied on foreign currency, mainly the US dollar, since 2009 when the government of Robert Mugabe stopped printing Zimbabwean dollars in an effort to quell hyperinflation.

This move has now come back to haunt the still relatively new government of Emmerson Mnangagwa, who only narrowly won the presidency in August 2018.

Authorities may have ordered ISPs to restrict access, in response to the ongoing protests. As of January 16, the internet was not accessible on TelOne or EcoNet networks in and around the cities of Bulawayo and Harare, the nation’s capital. NetBlocks, a non-profit group that studies internet censorship, published results of technical tests in the country showing the outages.

Writing for TechZim, Tinashe Nyahasha commented:

I am personally embarrassed for our government. Blocking information flow is a cowardly and pathetic thing to do. Zimbabwe is open for business but not open to information flow?

Cubans say state telecom is censoring SMS messages

As they prepare for a nationwide referendum on a new version of the country’s constitution, Cuban activists have observed that SMS messages containing phrases like “yo voto no” (“I vote no”) or referencing abstention are not reaching their intended recipients. Independent media outlet 14ymedio tested multiple versions of such messages with more than 100 people in various regions of the country, all of whom found the same results. The draft constitution preserves Cuba’s one-party system, but legitimizes private business and sets term limits for the presidency, among other changes.

Who’s in charge of Venezuela? Wikipedians go to ‘editing war’, see brief blackout

Wikipedia became inaccessible for most Venezuelans on January 12, following a high-stakes conflict over the legitimacy of two dueling political leaders, President Nicolás Maduro and the National Assembly President Juan Guaidó. After Guaidó publicly invoked a constitutional statute that could position him to assume the presidency until free and fair elections are held, Wikipedians went to war over the question of who should be listed as president of the republic on the site. Wikipedia became wholly inaccessible for several hours on CANTV, the country’s predominant internet service provider, which is majority-owned by the Venezuelan government. It is now accessible again. But the questions driving the controversy remain red-hot.

Myanmar court denied appeal to Reuters reporters

Two Myanmar reporters who were sentenced to seven years prison for violating Myanmar’s Official Secrets Act had their legal appeal of the verdict denied on January 11 by a Myanmar court.

Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo were originally arrested in December 2017 for possessing state documents regarding military operations while covering the killing of Rohingya in Rakhine state. They were sentenced on September 3, 2018, after a nine-month-long trial.

In court proceedings, police testified that they had handed the documents to the reporters without explanation, shortly before the arrest, effectively entrapping them.

The Southeast Asian Press Alliance condemned the decision that rejected their appeal:

The denial of their appeal is an appalling reaffirmation of Myanmar’s rejection of genuine democracy and sends an unmistakable signal that press freedom is in great peril in a country, once a pariah state, that had held out hope that it was making great strides toward democratic reform.

Iranian officials say they plan to block Instagram

Iranian internet regulators say they are prepared to block Instagram, one of the last and most popular foreign social media platforms still accessible in Iran, as Twitter and Facebook have both been blocked in the country for nearly a decade. Just this past year, Telegram messaging service was blocked following large-scale protests over economic hardships and broken promises of the ruling government. Although many Iranians likely will continue using to the service over VPNs, the move will mark another step for Iran in the direction of limiting online connections to services and communities in other parts of the world.

Using a VPN in China? Get ready to pay up.

Two Chinese internet users are currently facing fines for using VPNs and similar tools to access overseas websites that are blocked by China’s Great Firewall. While VPN use is permitted in certain contexts — mainly for government agencies and large private companies — China's vigorous internet control regime has in recent years put significant resources towards preventing people from using these and other similar tools. The 2017 Cybersecurity Law explicitly targeted VPNs, triggering multiple arrests of individuals selling unlicensed VPNs, and compelling Apple to take down VPN apps from its China app store.

The new law does not explicitly address or criminalize the individual use of such technologies, but authorities used the 1996 “Rules for Provisional Regulations of the Administration of International Networking of Computer Information in the People’s Republic of China” to fine the two users. Both cases indicate that, today, the very act of circumventing the internet through an unregistered channel is considered illegal.

Supporters join hunger strike in solidarity with jailed Azerbaijani blogger

Imprisoned Azerbaijani video blogger Mehman Huseynov began a hunger strike in protest of what he says is the latest in a series of bogus charges levied against him by authorities in Azerbaijan. After 12 days without food or water, Huseynov began drinking water and milk, but continues to refuse solid and other foods. Other activists and supporters have joined the strike, including acclaimed journalist Khadija Ismayilova.

Prior to his arrest, Huseynov ran a popular Facebook page where he shared videos on social issues in Azerbaijan, ranging from poor working conditions to the lavish lifestyles of government officials. His page had more than 300,000 followers and is the subject of defamation charges filed against him by the government. He also faces new charges stemming from an encounter with a prison guard, that could result in additional prison time.

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Senato della Repubblica – Atto n. 152 – XVIII Legislatura – Assegnazione

Assegnato: <!– –>8ª Commissione permanente (Lavori pubblici, comunicazioni)<!– –>

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Senato della Repubblica – Documento CXLVI n. 1 – XVIII Legislatura – Assegnazione

Assegnato: <!– –>13ª Commissione permanente (Territorio, ambiente, beni ambientali)<!– –>

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Senato della Repubblica – Atto n. 144 – XVIII Legislatura – Assegnazione

Assegnato: <!– –>1ª Commissione permanente (Affari Costituzionali)<!– –>, <!– –>10ª Commissione permanente (Industria, commercio, turismo)<!– –>, <!– –>14ª Commissione permanente (Politiche dell’Unione europea)<!– –>

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Senato della Repubblica – Atto n. 154 – XVIII Legislatura – Assegnazione

Assegnato: <!– –>8ª Commissione permanente (Lavori pubblici, comunicazioni)<!– –>

Tratto da www.senato.it

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Senato della Repubblica – Atto n. 153 – XVIII Legislatura – Assegnazione

Assegnato: <!– –>8ª Commissione permanente (Lavori pubblici, comunicazioni)<!– –>

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Association study between <i>CCR2-CCR5</i> genes polymorphisms and chronic Chagas heart disease in <i>Wichi</i> and in admixed populations from Argentina

by Natalia Anahí Juiz, Elkyn Estupiñán, Daniel Hernández, Alejandra Garcilazo, Raúl Chadi, Gisela Morales Sanfurgo, Alejandro Gabriel Schijman, Silvia Andrea Longhi, Clara Isabel González

Several studies have proposed different genetic markers of susceptibility to develop chronic Chagas cardiomyopathy (CCC). Many genes may be involved, each one making a small contribution. For this reason, an appropriate approach for this problematic is to study a large number of single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in individuals sharing a genetic background. Our aim was to analyze two CCR2 and seven CCR5 SNPs and their association to CCC in Argentina. A case-control study was carried out in 480 T. cruzi seropositive adults from Argentinean Gran Chaco endemic region (Wichi and Creole) and patients from Buenos Aires health centres. They were classified according to the Consensus on Chagas-Mazza Disease as non-demonstrated (non-DC group) or demonstrated (DC group) cardiomyopathy, i.e. asymptomatic or with CCC patients, respectively. Since, after allelic analysis, 2 out of 9 studied SNPs did not fit Hardy–Weinberg equilibrium in the unaffected non-DC group from Wichi patients, we analyzed them as a separate population. Only rs1800024T and rs41469351T in CCR5 gene showed significant differences within non-Wichi population (Creole + patients from Buenos Aires centres), being the former associated to protection, and the latter to risk of CCC. No evidence of association was observed between any of the analyzed CCR2-CCR5 gene polymorphisms and the development of CCC; however, the HHE haplotype was associated with protection in Wichi population. Our findings support the hypothesis that CCR2-CCR5 genes and their haplotypes are associated with CCC; however, depending on the population studied, different associations can be found. Therefore, the evolutionary context, in which the genes or haplotypes are associated with diseases, acquires special relevance.

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