20 August 2015
News in Brief:INTERNATIONAL NEWS
Surfers’ beaches at Ballina, Lennox Head and Bondi Beach have been abandoned following shark attacks and sightings off the New South Wales coast.
Ibrahim Sharif, the former head of the opposition National Democratic Action Society, is facing new charges of urging the overthrow of the government, according to the state news agency BNA. He was jailed for his role in the 2011 Arab Spring uprising but has just been released on a royal pardon.
The police say a British citizen of Bangladeshi origin, Touhidur Rahman, has been arrested in connection with the murders of secular activists writing for the Mukto-Mona (Free Thinkers) website which supports free speech and opposes Islamic fundamentalism.
Protesters marched through Sao Paolo, Brasilia and a dozen other cities, demanding the arrest of President Rousseff on charges of corruption and fraud. They suspect her of adjusting official economic figures to make the economy look better than it was before last year’s election, and accuse her of involvement in fraud and bribery at the state-owned oil company Petrobas when she was energy minister.
Shwe Mann, the leader of Burma’s ruling party, has been ousted after he forged an alliance with Aung San Suu Kyi, the pro-democracy opposition leader. The alliance could be seen as politically threatening to his rival, president Thein Sein.
Explosions in a chemical warehouses in Tianjin, northeast China, killed more than 100 people, injured at least 700 (70 seriously), spread destruction over several miles and made more than 3,500 residents homeless. Over 1000 firemen are still fighting the blazes; at least 17 of them have died and 85 are missing.
The authorities have shut down 50 websites for “spreading rumours” about the explosions.
China devalued its currency by 3% against the dollar.
The USA opened its embassy in Havana, 54 years after it was closed. John Kerry, the first US secretary of state to visit the island since 1945, used the occasion to urge Cuba to welcome democracy.
Isis announced its murder of a Croatian surveyor it abducted in Sinai.
: A 162-room, five-acre tourist complex, the Blue Beach Resort, has opened alongside two Hamas training centres and a refugee camp.
Tony Blair is involved in secret talks between Hamas and Israel, which propose a Hamas cease-fire in return for the lifting of Israel’s blockade of the Gaza strip, according to Middle Eastern media.
The increasing number of immigrants arriving in Germany has led the head of the German police union to call for the scrapping of the Schengen system which abolished border controls between those countries which agreed to take part. Germany received over 150,000 applications for asylum in the first 6 months of 2015 and the authorities are struggling to cope.
Angel Merkel faces a rebellion by up to 100 Conservative MPs this week when a vote is taken on the 86 billion euro Greek bailout.
Violence broke out on Greek islands when immigrants started fighting for food and identity documents. Riot police from the mainland had to be called in to restore control in Kos. There are now 4,000 migrants on Kos waiting to be processed, and it has been reported that 200 migrants are arriving every day. The authorities on the island have asked Athens to send in troops to control the large numbers of migrants. A cruise liner has been sent to Kos in an attempt to relieve the situation. Extra police have also been sent to Lesbos and Chios.
Eurozone finance ministers have agreed to release €26 billion to Greece, part of which will be used to repay debt and part to recapitalise Greek banks. The release of additional funds may follow after the review of the situation in October, when the IMF may participate.
A Trigana Air Service plane with 49 passengers and a crew of 5 crashed into remote jungle on the island of Papua during bad weather. Wreckage but no survivors have been found. Trigana Air Service has lost ten aircraft in its 24 years; it was banned from flying in the EU 8 years ago.
Kurdish authorities reported that Isis is now deploying chemical weapons. Attacks have been made with rockets, mortars and car-bombs loaded with chlorine gas and possibly other chemicals.
Reports by Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and The New York Times describe how Isis has developed the rape and sexual-slavery of female captives into a large-scale, organised, commercial and theologically-justified activity.
Prime minister Abdullah al-Thinni resigned during a live television interview. A new round of UN-backed peace talks between the civil war-torn country’s various antagonists has just started in Geneva.
Fighting has broken out in Sirte, Gaddafi’s home town, where residents have risen up against Isis.
Plans to take action against people-smugglers and their boats on Libya’s shore failed to receive UN Security Council approval and were rejected by both Libya’s official and unofficial governments.
The migrant crisis on the Greek island of Kos grows (see above) and the death-toll rises on the Libya-Italy route (42 migrants were found dead in the hold of a ship, poisoned by diesel fumes).
Vice-premier Choe Yong Gon has been executed, according to a South Korean news agency. He was involved in the Kaesong project for industrial co-operation between North and South Korea.
Satellite images published this week by Baltimore’s John Hopkins University and by HIS Jane’s suggest that North Korea is stepping up its production of uranium, raising fears that it is seeking to increase its stockpile of nuclear weapons.
South Korea launched live-firing military exercises in response to last week’s events in the border zone when two South Korean soldiers on routine patrol were badly injured by new landmines planted by North Korea.
Russia is now in recession, with falling oil prices and western sanctions hitting it hard. The Russian authorities are retaliating by seizing and destroying food and flowers imported from the west.
An on-line You-tube video criticising Mr Putin’s governing party has been blocked, according to activist Alexei Navalny of the Progress Party.
Falling oil prices and the cost of supporting war in Yemen against Houthi rebels and in Syria against Assad are costing Saudi Arabia’s foreign reserves heavily. Last week the price of oil fell to below $50 a barrel, its lowest in six years, and Saudi Arabia borrowed in the sovereign bond market ($5 billion) for the first time in eight years.
The Sri Lanka Freedom party of ex-president President Mahinda Rajapaksa has suffered heavy losses in this week’s parliamentary elections. Mr Rajapaksa was removed as president earlier this year and was seeking election as a parliamentary candidate with his eye on becoming prime minister which would give him immunity from prosecution. He faces possible prosecution for alleged war crimes committed during the defeat of the Tamil separatists in 2009 and for alleged corruption amid claims that billions of dollars of state money were appropriated during his nine years as president. There are allegations that the death of a Sri Lankan rugby star, Wasim Thajudeen, who is said to have fallen out with Rajapaksa’s son over a woman, was murder.
President Assad’s army made further retreats to consolidate its forces in his north Syrian heartland. His warplanes killed at least 82 people on a bombing raid on a marketplace in Douma, near Damascus.
Isis has started to mint its own currency, a gold Islamic dinar.
A bomb exploded at a Buddhist shrine in central Bangkok, killing at least twenty people (mostly tourists, including a British law student, Vivian Wingyan Chan) and injuring more than 120. A second bomb exploded a day later, but no one was injured.
Two weeks after Turkey and the USA agreed to work together in Syria, there appears to be confusion about that agreement. Statements made by a Turkish foreign ministry under-secretary and by a US state department spokesman about plans for a safe haven in north Syria seemed to contradict each other.
Turkey is arming an alliance of Syrian rebel groups, the ‘Levant Front’, to remove Isis from the area of the proposed safe haven along the Turkish/Syrian border.
Turkey continues to launch air-strikes against Kurdish PKK targets.
It has been reported that parts of a Russian missile have been found and identified in the wreckage of the Malaysian airliner shot down in July 2014. This report has fuelled suspicions that rebels in East Ukraine brought down the airliner with a mobile rocket launcher supplied by Russia. The UN Security Council proposed that an international tribunal be set up to investigate and prosecute those behind the attack, but the proposal was vetoed by Russia.
A TV station in Russia has announced that all military leave for the rebels in the East of the Ukraine has been cancelled and that they are preparing for full combat readiness. The Government in Kiev has alleged that its forces are being fired upon by pro-Russian rebels using heavy artillery, banned by the treaty of Minsk which introduced a cease fire.
Hilary Clinton has handed over her personal email server to the Justice Department so that prosecutors can investigate allegations that classified information was contained in private e-mails she sent while she was secretary of state.
Polls suggest that the Vermont senator Bernie Saunders, her nearest rival as the Democratic party’s presidential nominee, has pulled ahead of her. There are rumours that Al Gore and Joe Biden may join the race for the Democratic nomination.
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