29 October 2015
Week in Brief: INTERNATIONAL
AFGHANISTAN: The Taliban and the Afghan army are fighting over the city of Lashkar Gar for control of Helmand province. The army drove the Taliban back from the city of Ghazni last week, and from the city of Kunduz the week before.
ARGENTINA: The first round of elections on 25 October offerring a choice between between the protectionism/nationalisation/welfare/stagnation of President Kirchner’s successor Daniel Scioli and the liberalisation of centre-right opponent Mauricio Macri, mayor of Buenas Aires, produced no clear winner. A further poll will be held in November..
BRAZIL: The first international indigenous games took place in the city of Palmas, with athletes from native cultures around the world competing in traditional sports.
BURMA: A new migrant crisis of people-trafficked Bangladeshis and Rohingya people fleeing from Burma is developing now that the monsoon season is over and sea-travel is possible again.
CHINA: The Confucius Peace Prize – founded in China in 2010 in response to the award of the Nobel Peace Prize to the jailed Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo – has been awarded this year to Robert Mugabe.
FRANCE: 41 pensioners, a lorry driver and his 3 year old son were killed when a coach collided with a lorry near Bordeaux and both vehicles were engulfed in flames.
INDIA: Two children (one nine months old, the other two years old) were burnt to death when their house was set alight in an attack which is being seen as high caste violence against low caste. It has triggered widespread protests against the police and government. A government minister, Vijay Singh, commented “If one stones a dog, how can the government be responsible for this?”
INDONESIA: Fires from illegal forest-clearing on the islands of Sumartra, Borneo and Papua are making Indonesia one of the world’s worst emitter of greenhouse gases. Airports and schools have closed, and respiratory infections are rising. Neighbouring countries are also being affected.
IRAQ: A US special forces soldier was killed during a raid by US and Iraqi Kurdish commandos which rescued 69 hostages from Isis. More than 20 Isis fighters were killed and 6 captured, according to reports.
Canada’s new president, Justin Trudeau, has promised to withdraw Canadian forces from Iraq.
ISRAEL: Prime minister Netanyahu was criticised for claiming that Adolf Hitler initially wanted to deport Jews and was only persuaded to exterminate them by Haj Amin al-Husseini, grand mufti of Jerusalem and future Palestinian nationalist leader. Most historians agree that Hitler was intent on ‘the final solution’ long before al-Husseini also began to call for it.
MEXICO: Hurricane Patricia, a category five storm with winds up to 200mph, hit Mexico’s pacific coast.
POLAND: The Conservative Law and Justice party won a convincing victory in the general election. Prime minister Ewa Kopacz admitted defeat.
RUSSIA: A five-month old baby has died in police custody in St Petersburg. He was taken off his Tajik parents when they were detained for questioning about their migrant status. The parents were released five hours later, but the baby was not returned – they were told to call back for him the next morning. The next morning they were told that he had died. They weren’t allowed the collect the body for almost a week.
Parliament passed the first reading of a bill which will allow prison wardens to use truncheons, electric shocks and guard dogs to beat and torture prisoners who have ‘violated prison discipline’.
The defence ministry announced the near-completion of another military base in the Arctic, on the island of Kotelny in the East Siberian Sea. It also announced that Russian troops will be permanently employed in the Arctic from 2018.
SOUTH AFRICA: Protests at universities and colleges around the country culminated with at least 10,000 students marching on the government compound in Pretoria. Police fired rubber bullets and tear gas at the students, who were protesting against a rise in tuition fees.
SWEDEN: A sword-wielding neo-Nazi attacked teachers and pupils at a school where many pupils are from immigrant families. He stabbed two teachers and two pupils. One teacher and one pupil have died. He was shot dead by police.
SYRIA: Three Russians were reportedly killed by rebel shelling in Latakia province. Both the Kremlin and the Assad regime deny that there are Russian troops on the ground in Syria.
Russia is seeking closer ties with Syria’s autonomous Kurdish region. Representatives of the PYD (the Syrian Democratic Union party, whose YPG militia is fighting against Isis but not against Assad, whose regime recognises their autonomy) and the HPD (the Kurdish political party in Turkey) met Russians officials in Moscow to discuss opening a representative office there. Russia announced that it did not consider the PKK (the Kurdish separatist movement in violent conflict with Turkey) a terrorist organisation. These moves will worry the USA – they could be seen as an attempt to drive a wedge between them and their most effective ally in the war against Isis. It will also worry Turkey, who insists that the PKK are terrorists and are closely linked to the PYD.
President Assad visited Moscow for meetings with President Putin and Russia’s foreign and defence ministers. It was the first time Assad has left the country since the start of the war four years ago.
The US secretary of state John Kerry, the Russian secretary of state Sergei Lavrov, the foreign minister of Turkey and the foreign minister of Saudi Arabia are meeting in Vienna to discuss the crisis in Syria.
Syrian rebels claim that they are holding the Russian-backed offensive against them, with the help of anti-tank weapons supplied by the USA.
TANZANIA: Early results from Tanzania’s seneral election show nine goverment ministers losing their parliamentary seats to the opposition Ukawa coalition. Results are due today.
USA: Ben Carson has leapt to the top of the polls in the fight for the Republican nomination. Retired neurosurgeon Dr Carson is ahead at 26% followed by Donald Trump at 22% and others down at 8%. Mr Bush,now at 7%, is said to be reducing his campaign staff.
Mr Obama is coming under incressing pressure from the Pentagon to deploy troops or special forces in Syria. Ash Carter, the defence secretary, has told the senate that the US would not hesitate to support its allies with “strikes from the air or direct action on the ground”.
VATICAN: The Italian newspaper Quotidiano Nazionale reported that the Pope has a brain tumour. This was denied by the Vatican’s press office. Other Italian newspapers have suggested that the story is part of a conspiracy by reactionary forces in the Roman Catholic church to undermine the reformist Pope.
VENEZUELA: President Maduro is calling for Lorenzo Mendoza, a Venezuelan businessman, to be prosecuted for treason for discussing the dire state of the Venezuelan economy and possible solutions with a Harvard economist. The private telephone conversation was tapped, recorded and broadcast on state television.