Paraguay’s incoming president Mario Abdo Benítez is due to be sworn in today, after winning the country’s April elections for its right-wing Colorado Party. While Abdo Benítez edged to victory on the promise of low taxes, increased foreign investment and a reformed judiciary, for some, the new president’s past contains some dark associations. Abdo Benítez’ father was the private secretary to Alfredo Stroessner, the notorious strongman who held power in Paraguay from 1954 to 1989. The incoming president refused to condemn Stroessner's regime during the election campaign, and Abdo Benítez’ right-leaning tendencies have opposition figures fearing that his ascension will tip the country back towards the bad old days of authoritarianism. They needn’t worry too much: the Colorado party failed to secure a majority government and Abdo Benítez will have a fight on his hands should he try and erode civil liberties or democratic process in the country.
Yesterday morning’s incident in Westminster, where a car careered into cyclists and pedestrians, left two people injured and set the rest of the UK capital on edge. As the man driving the vehicle was apprehended by armed members of the Metropolitan Police, it was clear that on this occasion, an inert barrier was the most effective deterrent. Lessons in urbanism developed since the days of the IRA, and latterly 2017’s London Bridge attacks, have ushered in measures that guard Londoners from vehicles wielded as weapons, but do not create unnecessary alarm. “To prevent vehicle-borne devices, outside Westminster and Parliament you have barriers,” says Paul Rogers, global security consultant with Oxford Research Group. “But around the Treasury, Foreign Office and the rest, you have attractive stone bollards, which are highly reinforced, with foundations that go down about three metres into the ground.” A fine example of how good urban design keeps people safer and calmer.
Sino-Japanese relations are in thaw ahead of a mooted meeting between Shinzo Abe and Xi Jinping in Vladivostok in September. Sources close to the Japanese prime minister suggest that this is the reason he will skip a planned visit to the Yasukuni Shrine today, on a visit originally intended to mark the anniversary of the end of the Second World War. Abe’s decision to step away will acknowledge protests from neighbouring China and South Korea about the presence of what they see as “war criminals” interred there and, the Japanese premier hopes, sidestep the tetchy issue ahead of meetings at the Eastern Economic Forum next month. Proof, if it works, that good diplomacy isn’t always about action and sometimes about the significance of what is left undone.
With light pollution affecting an ever-wider expanse of our night sky, an announcement from the International Dark-Sky Association has provided a ray of hope. The US-based non-profit has revealed that Cévennes National Park in the south of France is to go light-pollution free. Over the next three years the park will retrofit about 20,000 exterior lights, which will help it meet the association’s requirements for a truly pitch-black sky. Cévennes will join the ranks of 12 other reserves across the globe, four of which are in the UK. The announcement signals an emphasis by French authorities on confronting all forms of pollution that pose substantial threats to the sanctity of nature reserves across the country. Traditionally urban sprawl and invasive infrastructure projects have been the eyesores that legislators have looked to tackle. But as cities become bigger and brighter, the Dark-Sky Association’s initiatives are a leading light.