14 May 2015
Week in brief: INTERNATIONAL NEWS
GREECE: Greece has begun to pay the 200 million euros owed to the IMF this week, by emptying the cash reserves lent to them by the IMF some years ago for emergencies.
Prime Minister Tsipras wants to raise more funds by issuing new government debt; the ECB has capped short-term debt at 15 billion; Tsipras wants it raised to 25 billion.
Tourist taxes have been increased; tax on restaurant bills on the islands raised from 13% to 18% (tourism accounts for 20% of the country’s GDP, and one in five jobs).
In the continuing absence of any deal about reforms to the Greek economy, the German finance minister Wolfgang Schauble has suggested that Greece should have a referendum to decide whether they are to accept austerity or leave the EU.
GERMANY: Four alleged members of the Old School Society, a neo-Nazi group, were arrested on suspicion of planning to bomb Muslim targets.
Nursery school staff go on strike, demanding a 10% increase in pay.
FRANCE: Four armed robbers steal jewellery worth 17.5 million euros from the Cartier boutique in Cannes, as the film festival is about to open.
ITALY: The Pope pardons women who have had an abortion, and doctors and nurses who have performed the operation.
SPAIN: An Airbus A400M, a troop and vehicle transport plane, crashed during a test flight, killing four people. The RAF has temporarily grounded its own Airbus A400m’s.
MEDITERRANEAN: HMS Bulwark rescues 100 migrants from a sinking ship on its first day in action.
Jean-Claude Junker has said that each EU country must take its share of rescued immigrants, proportional to levels of population and employment.
MACEDONIA: Violent conflict between ethnic Albanians and the police leave 22 dead; 8 police and 14 Albanians.
RUSSIA: Russia’s new Armata (T-14) tank, “the most advanced tank in the world” was unveiled. It broke down in Red Square during rehearsals for VE Day parade.
Western leaders boycott the VE Day celebrations in Moscow, in protest at Russia’s involvement in the Ukraine crisis. President Xi of China was present, and Chinese troops participated in the parade for the first time. Afterwards President Putin announced a number of trade deals agreed between Russia and China, and the two countries embarked on joint naval exercises in the Mediterranean.
Angela Merkel flew to Moscow after the parade, to lay a wreath on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and to have talks with President Putin about the Ukraine. John Kerry, the US secretary of State, also visited Russia for a four-hour meeting to discuss the Ukraine with President Putin.
A report by Boris Nemtsov, who was murdered in Moscow last February, has been published, claiming that Russian soldiers are being sent to fight for the pro-Moscow rebels in the Ukraine, and that at least 220 of them have been killed.
SYRIA: The US State Department has announced bounties of between five and ten million dollars for the capture of three ISIS leaders in Syria.
The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons says that it has found traces of chemicals used to make sarin gas and the nerve agent VX at a military research site, suggesting that the Assad regime may still be holding stocks of banned chemical weapons.
Rebel officials have reported that President Assad has dismissed the head of his intelligence service and placed him under house arrest for plotting a coup against him.
SAUDI ARABIA: King Salman has pulled out of one-to-one talks with President Obama at a Camp David summit for the Gulf States. This is seen as a snub to President Obama, reflecting Saudi disapproval of US talks with Iran and of US reluctance to take action against Assad in Syria. Saudi Arabia is reportedly funding Sunni forces in Syria to fight against Assad and counter Iranian influence there.
YEMEN: Nasser al-Ansi, the al-Quaeda commander who claimed responsibility for the Charlie Hebdo attack, has reportedly been killed by a US drone strike.
Saudi Arabia agrees to a five-day cease-fire to allow humanitarian aid, after talks with John Kerry, the US Secretary of State.
KUWAIT: The £2 billion sale of Eurofighter Typhoon jets (built by BAE systems at Wharton, Lancashire) is in doubt; Kuwait may buy the US-made Boeing F18 Super Hornet instead.
ISRAEL: Binyamin Netanyahu has formed a new coalition right-wing government. The parties include his own Likud party, Jewish Home (a right-wing pro-settler party), two ultra orthodox parties and one centre right party. The hard-line Aylet Shaked of Jewish Home has been appointed the new justice minister, and has proposed a new tax to limit foreign funding for local charities.
Netanyahu and the state are being sued by a former director of the official residence for alleged verbal abuse.
IRAN: Anti-government riots and Kurdish ethnic unrest were triggered by the mysterious death of a chambermaid who fell from a hotel balcony in Mahabad, the capital of Iranian Kurdistan.
AFGHANISTAN: Four men were sentenced to death over the mob killing of a woman falsely accused of burning the Koran. Eight others were sentenced to sixteen years in prison. Nineteen police officers on trial for failing to prevent the attack have not yet been sentenced.
NEPAL: A second earthquake (magnitude 7.3) hit the country.
There are fears that people-traffickers are exploiting the crisis; Indian troops rescue four children from traffickers at the border.
The missing British student, Matt Carapiet, has been confirmed dead.
INDIA: The film star Salman Khan has been found guilty of running over and killing a sleeping homeless man, and sentenced to five years in prison.
PAKISTAN: An army helicopter carrying diplomats and their wives to a ski resort in northern Pakistan crashed. The ambassadors from Norway and the Philippines and the wives of the ambassadors from Malaysia and Indonesia were killed, as were both pilots. Two other ambassadors were injured. The Taliban has claimed responsibility, but the Pakistan army says that a technical fault was responsible.
HONG KONG: The British banker Rurik Jutting has been sent to trial accused of killing two women. He entered no plea in court.
NORTH KOREA: North Korea claims to have test-fired a ballistic missile from a submarine off the north east coast of Korea.
JAPAN: Japan is hoping to sell its Soryu (Blue Dragon) submarine to Australia, in what will be the first weapons deal since the rules forbidding arms exports were changed last year.
USA: The state of Nevada permits the use of self-driving trucks.
Two police officers on traffic duty were shot dead in Jackson, Mississippi. Three people were arrested.
President Obama’s Trade Promotion Authority legislation was blocked in the Senate by his own party, the Democrats. Without the TPA, he will not be able to sign the Trans Pacific Partnership, a trade agreement with eleven other Pacific Rim countries.
VENEZUELA: Eight army officers are jailed for up to eight years for allegedly plotting a coup against President Maduro.
SOUTH AFRICA: The main opposition party, the Democratic Alliance, has elected its first black leader, Mmusi Maimane, a businessman from Soweto.