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Power to the chatbot

GLOBAL BRIEFS | Romania introduces government adviser powered by artificial intelligence

Nicolae Ciuca Nicolae Ciuca/Twitter

Power to the chatbot
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The nation’s newest Cabinet member is a robot. Romanian Prime Minister Nicolae Ciuca introduced Ion, his honorary consultant, on March 1, hailing it as the world’s first government adviser powered by artificial intelligence. Developed by Romanian researchers, the oblong-shaped mirror structure scans social ­networks to inform the government in real time of ­citizens’ suggestions and concerns. Romanians can also submit their input via a designated website and at in-person locations. At the launch, the AI adviser said in a computerized male voice, “Hi, you gave me life and my role is now to represent you, like a mirror.” —Joyce Wu

Fact box source: The World Factbook-CIA


Ownership of the Falkland Islands is again up for debate as of March 2. Argentina’s foreign minister made the announcement following G-20 meetings in New Delhi, India. The news prompted strong criticism from the United Kingdom because it negates a nonbinding pact the U.K. and Argentina signed in 2016, agreeing to disagree about who owns the archipelago. The pact regulated gas, oil, and fish extraction from the region, concessions Argentina now regrets. In 1982, Argentina invaded the islands the U.K. has held since 1833. The ­conflict ended after 74 days and 907 casualties. In 2013, the islands’ residents voted overwhelmingly to remain a U.K. territory. Argentinian leaders are appealing to a 1965 United Nations resolution that called for the two countries to hold talks on the issue. Argentina has long claimed sovereignty over the islands, but Britain says its territorial claim dates back to 1765. —Amy Lewis


Hundreds of people chanting and waving flags rallied in the streets of Tunis on March 5, calling for the release of more than 20 opposition figures detained in recent weeks. The crackdown is the largest since Tunisian President Kais Saied suspended parliament in a 2021 power grab. Saied also faced protests over his comments about African migrants. During a Tunisia National Security Council meeting in late February, Saied called the influx of illegal migrants from sub-Saharan Africa a criminal arrangement to make Tunisia’s demography more African and less Arab. Black Tunisians account for at least 10 percent of the country’s population. Sub-Saharan Africans in Tunisia said the comments triggered a wave of racist attacks, including evictions and violence. —Onize Ohikere



The government proposed changing the legal age of consent from 13 to 16 in an overhaul of the ­country’s sex crime legislation. Japan currently has the lowest age of consent of any G-7 country. Critics say that has led to acquittals in some high-profile sexual abuse cases in the last few years. The age of consent is 16 years old in most U.S. states and the U.K. It is 14 in Germany and 15 in France. The overhaul would also change wording around the definition of rape. Japan’s current 1907 law puts the burden of proof for conviction on rape survivors, requiring them to prove aggressors used “violence and intimidation” and that it was “impossible to resist.” —Jenny Lind Schmitt

Juan Andrés Verde (right)

Juan Andrés Verde (right) Cura Juan Andrés Verde/Twitter


A celebrity priest gave his neighbor a ride to the hospital just in time to deliver her baby. Juan Andrés Verde, a former rugby player and MasterChef Uruguay contestant, drove the woman to the hospital last month after her grandmother asked him for help. The family lives in Montevideo’s low-income Santa Eugenia neighborhood and has no transportation. Verde had already lent out his own car, so he borrowed a truck and rushed the family to the hospital. The truck had a broken horn, so Verde waved a white handkerchief out the window to get through traffic. Monica delivered a healthy 7-pound baby girl shortly after their arrival. —Elizabeth Russell


The Protestant Council of Rwanda last month instructed all member-run healthcare centers to stop conducting abortions. Some 26 Protestant religious organizations signed the statement that urged parents to promote abstinence instead. The decision will affect about 10 percent of Rwanda’s largest health facilities. The Catholic Church, which owns 30 percent of the country’s largest health centers, has a similar policy and also describes abortion as a sin. Rwanda revised its law in 2018 to allow abortions only in cases of rape, forced marriage, incest, or when the pregnancy poses a health risk. “For us, we have our belief, and our belief cannot be taken away by the law,” Laurent Mbanda, head of the Anglican Church in Rwanda, told the Associated Press. —Onize Ohikere


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