Disney Files Lawsuit Against Florida Governor Ron DeSantis

Florida’s governor Ron DeSantis, who is also widely speculated to be planning a bid for the Republican nomination in the 2024 presidential election, has been sued by Disney for initiating a “targeted campaign of government retaliation” against the company. DeSantis’ feud began with Disney last year after they criticised his “Parental Rights in Education” bill. Nicknamed the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, this controversial piece of legislation was widely criticised for stopping the discussion of sexual orientation and gender identity in classrooms. After small handfuls of Disney staff began to walk out over the company’s failure to immediately condemn the bill, a statement was issued to clarify their opposition to it.

Since this statement, DeSantis has been vocally critical of Disney, having state officials block a recent deal made regarding the firm’s Florida theme park and even threatening to build a prison next to it. Disney Chief executive Bob Iger has previously called DeSantis “anti-business and anti-Florida”, refusing to back down. This lawsuit claims that Disney’s free speech is being suppressed by state officials who disagree with them and that their business plans should not be blocked “on the whim of new political leadership”.

Judicial overhaul triggers record-breaking protests in Israel

Divisive proposals to reform the judiciary have produced the largest rightwing protest in the country for nearly two decades. According to Israeli media, an estimated 150,000-200,000 people took to the streets of Jerusalem in support of the far-right government’s plans. This is in reaction to four months of weekly protests against the reforms and a halt to the overhaul in March. The Guardian reported that the event was organised and funded by political parties and activists. Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, expressed his gratitude on Thursday night for the public display of support. Netanyahu tweeted: ‘I thank the hundreds of thousands of Israelis who came to Jerusalem tonight to support our government. Your passion and patriotism moved me deeply’. 

These legislation changes would give Netanyahu and his coalition partners the authority to overturn Supreme Court decisions and appoint Israeli judges. Leading the most right-wing coalition in Israel’s history, Netanyahu’s promise to govern for all Israelis is being criticised by political rivals. Many protesters argue that Netanyahu has a conflict of interest in trying to change the legal system whilst being trialled for alleged bribery, fraud, and breach of trust. The prime minister denies these charges.

UNSC Votes Unanimously to Condemn Taliban’s Crackdown on Afghan Women

The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) unanimously adopted resolution 2681 (2023) this Thursday, calling on the Taliban government in Afghanistan to “swiftly reverse” their harsh and restrictive policies on women and girls. Since the Taliban seized control following the withdrawal of NATO forces in August 2021, they initially promised an “open, inclusive Islamic government.” However, the Taliban gradually began to re-impose their severe interpretation of Islamic law, or Sharia, which they had used to rule Afghanistan during their first stint in power from 1996 to 2001. This has had detrimental effects for women’s rights in Afghanistan, with severe restrictions on their education, jobs and access to public spaces.

The resolution, co-sponsored by the United Arab Emirates and Japan, passed unanimously with a 15-0 vote, which indicated the widespread global concern for the rights of women in Afghanistan despite steep international divisions over the Ukraine war. 
This was a blow to the prestige of the Taliban, which has been trying to gain international recognition as the legitimate government of Afghanistan. The resolution also comes on the back of a special UN meeting on the way forward on Afghanistan being convened in Doha by the UN Secretary-General next week, where an invitation has not been extended to the Taliban.

Snapchat Releases Experimental AI Chatbot to Mixed Reviews

Last week, popular social media platform Snapchat released its own AI chatbot, powered by the latest version of OpenAI’s ChatGPT. This feature, dubbed ‘My AI,’ aims to act as a restricted version of ChatGPT (within the community guidelines of Snapchat) which is more easily accessible and customizable, acting as a virtual assistant with more expansive powers. 

My AI has been greeted by mixed reviews, with some finding the tool to be very helpful with recommendations and advice, making the global phenomenon of AI-powered chatbots accessible and a part of everyday life. But the fact that the chatbot presents itself as another user on the platform has parents worried, due to the large number of teenagers and children on the platform who may not understand the distinction between human and machine as a result of this feature. 

Furthermore, reports of ‘creepy’ exchanges, such as one where the chatbot appears to know the location of users when such permissions hadn’t been granted, appear concerning. Users are also unhappy that the option to remove the feature is only available if they subscribe to the premium version of the app. This has led to an increase in negative reviews of the platform, and Google searches for ‘delete Snapchat’ went up by 488% in a single day, according to cybersecurity firm CloudTech24.

Despite privacy and data security concerns, Snap says that it is continually improving the new feature based on user feedback.

Chinese Communist Party launches “Xi Jinping Thought” campaign for party members

Throughout April, China’s ruling Politburo started running an “education campaign” to ensure that all 97 million members of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) understand the latest iteration of Xi Jinping’s political ideology. The launch followed the publishing and distribution of three new books by Mr Xi on the topic. 

Added to the CCP constitution in 2017, “Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era” consists of 14 chapters including CCP control over all forms of work in China, a people-centric approach, a “comprehensive deepening of reforms”, and “innovative, coordinated, green, open and shared development.” 

Xi Jinping Thought is already studied in dozens of Chinese universities, and in 2019 Alibaba Group released an app called Xuexi Qiangguo (学习强国) designed to teach and test citizens on the ideology. However, analysts say that this latest campaign is the first one to mandate such an all-encompassing study of Xi Jinping Thought for CCP members, promising to help cadres “concentrate thoughts and efforts and forge their soul”.

The campaign will be implemented by Cai Qi, the chief of staff for Mr Xi’s government. Though the full scope of implementation remains obscure, there are concerns about the prospective impact on participants, who are required to engage in “criticism and self-criticism sessions” that make their “faces turn red and sweat”. 
Party members may also become more vulnerable to Mr Xi’s ongoing “anti-corruption campaign”, which has purged tens of thousands of officials since 2012 but which experts warn may be trying to “root out the people who aren’t faithfully implementing the direction of the party”.

Erdoğan cancels election appearances after falling ill on TV

After being taken ill during a television interview on Tuesday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan cancelled three days of public appearances, including the a political rally in the city of Adana, in the south of the country. He was able to carry out some appearances – the opening of a bridge and nuclear power plant – virtually, and as of Saturday, has fully resumed his schedule.

President Erdoğan, currently in his twentieth year in power, is currently on the campaign trail for Turkey’s upcoming elections, in which he hopes to secure a third term as president. According to polls, however, the incumbent president is lagging behind Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu by 3.6% on average, due in large part to the extremely high levels of inflation the country is experiencing. Erdoğan’s unorthodox economic policy, which has seen the government cutting interest rates when faced with rampant inflation, has contributed to the decline in value of the Turkish lira, lowering living standards in the country. The Turkish government also received widespread condemnation following the devastating earthquake which killed over 50,000 people in the country this year, with many criticising the government’s failure to enforce strict building regulations to make the country’s infrastructure more resistant to natural disasters, having come to power in the aftermath of the 1999 earthquake. For the first time since coming to power, Erdoğan is facing a real electoral threat to his power.