28 January 2016
Week in Brief: International
AFGHANISTAN: A suicide bomber killed seven employees of the TV channel TOLO and injured at least 25 other people. Last year the Taliban announced that they would be targeting the channel.
President Obama has authorised US special forces to combat Isis-affiliated groups, which have infiltrated Afghanistan from Pakistan.
AUSTRIA: The chancellor Werner Faymann has announced a cap on asylum seekers this year. No more than 37,500 will be allowed entry.
BRAZIL: An outbreak of the mosquito-born zika virus is spreading through Brazil. It is particularly dangerous to pregnant women, as it can lead birth defects. Three cases were reported in Britain among travellers returning from Latin America. There is no known cure for this rare virus.
CAMEROON: Three suicide attacks in a market in Bodo near the Nigerian border killed over 26 people and injured 30 others. Boko Haram are suspected.
CHINA: A Swedish human rights activist, Peter Dahlin, appeared on Chinese TV to make a “confession” and “apology”. He is the founder of China Action, which fights human rights cases. He was arrested at Beijing airport earlier this month.
Gui Minhai, a Swedish citizen and one of the five Hong Kong booksellers and publishers who disappeared last year, also appeared on television to make an “apology” and “confession”.
Police arrested over seventy people and took 15 infants into care when they raided the headquarters of a child-trafficking gang in Liangshan.
DENMARK: Parliament passed a law allowing the confiscation of cash and valuables over a threshold of £1015 from migrants, to pay towards their costs.
EGYPT: A booby-trap bomb killed nine people when police raided a militant hideout in a Cairo suburb. Six of the dead were police.
Eight employees at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo are facing criminal charges for causing further damage when they stuck the beard back on Tutankhamun’s funerary mask after it had been knocked off.
EU: This week’s meeting of interior ministers agreed to suspend the Schengen zone of passport-free travel for two years. It also proposed emergency plans to seal Greece off from the borders with other EU countries, and to help Macedonia (which is not part of the EU) to control its border with Greece, to prevent migrants from passing from Greece to other EU countries via Macedonia. Greece has failed to set up ‘hot spots’ for processing refugees, as suggested by the EU. Turkey has failed to stem the flow of refugees westward, in spite of the €3 billion payment from the EU.
The EU president Jean-Claude Juncker is proposing to abolish the Dublin system (which insists that immigrants must be registered in the country of entry into the EU) and to replace it with compulsory quotas for accepting migrants.
FRANCE: Violent protestors and migrants ran riot through Calais, invading the ferry port and boarding a P&O ferry. The port was closed while they were removed by police.
Last Tuesday’s strikes by taxi drivers, civil servants, teachers and air traffic controllers were accompanied by riots and violent protests.
A collapse at a site for the storage of nuclear waste at Bure has killed one person and trapped another 1600 feet underground.
In Russia, the economy minister Emmanuel Macron expressed the hope that sanctions against Russia over Ukraine could be lifted by this summer, following the full implementation of the Minsk agreement.
GERMANY: The interior minister Thomas de Maiziere said that the controls Germany installed on its border with Austria last September as a temporary six month measure will have to remain in place indefinitely.
The southern states of Bavaria and Baden-Wurttemberg are confiscating asylum-seeking migrants’ assets above a certain limit (€750 and €350 respectively) to pay towards their costs. (In Switzerland, the limit is €900. Denmark voted a similar measure through this week).
IRAQ: Saint Elijah’s monastery, the oldest Christian monastery in Iraq (founded AD590) has been demolished. It stood outside Mosul in Isis held territory.
ITALY: Prime minister Matteo Renzi has persuaded the Senate to vote to abolish itself. This attempt to revitalise the Italian political system will now go to a referendum.
Beppe Grillo, the anti-establishment comedian who founded the Five Star Movement which now has 91 MPs, is returning to stand-up comedy.
The first state visit to Europe by an Iranian president in 17 years began with President Rouhani’s arrival in Rome. He will visit France after Italy.
MALAYSIA: An investigation has concluded that prime minister Najib Razak received $681 million from the Saudi royal family in 2013 and returned $620 million of it. The gift was not illegal, according to the Malaysian attorney-general.
NORTH KOREA: A US student visiting North Korea as a tourist has been arrested, accused of committing ‘a hostile act against the state’.
PAKISTAN: Taliban militants attacked Bach Khan University in Charsadda, killing at least 30 people and wounding more than 60.
PORTUGAL: The presidential election was won by a centre-right candidate, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa.
RUSSIA: Retired High Court Judge, Sir Robert Owen’s report into the murder of Alexander Litvinenko in London in 2006 concludes that it was an assassination organised and sanctioned by the Russian state and ‘probably’ authorised at its very highest level.
SOUTH AFRICA: 11 people have died of heatstroke, over half of the country’s provinces have been declared disaster zones and food shortages are looming as South Africa suffers its worst drought in decades.
SWEDEN: A teenage asylum seeker has been arrested and charged with murder after a worker at a refugee centre near Gothenburg was stabbed to death.
SYRIA: The US is building a military base inside Syria for the first time, in an area held by Syrian Kurdish fighters close to the borders with Turkey and Iraq. Less than thirty miles away in the same area of northern Syria, Russia is building a military base in an area held by the Assad regime; it is only a few miles from the border with Turkey, and risks a further escalation of Russian/Turkish hostility.
Hydroelectric dams crucial to the economy and ecology of the Euphrates and Tigris river valleys are being used as shelters and hideouts by Isis.
UN sponsored peace-talks due to start this Monday in Geneva have been delayed until Friday. Rebel leaders say that the US is now suggesting to them that Assad should be allowed to stand in any future election.
Regime forces, aided by Russia and Iran, continue to gain territory. Thousands of people fleeing their advance have concentrated against the recently-sealed Turkish border.
TURKEY: A woman has been sent to jail for almost a year for making a rude hand gesture at President Erdogan as he passed in a bus during an anti-government election rally.
The government has declared victory against the Kurdish left-wing PKK separatist fighters in the town of Silopi. Eighteen months of conflict have seen 7000 homes damaged, at least 27 civilian deaths and, according the army, 136 militants killed. The conflict continues in other towns in south east Turkey. The PKK has made a video appeal to Marxists around the world to join them in the revolution against Turkey.
UKRAINE: An epidemic of H1N1 swine flu spreading across Ukraine has killed at least 72 people and possibly as many as 400.
VENEZUELA: The wife and mother of Leopoldo Lopez, the jailed opposition leader, were forced to strip and subjected to intimate searches in front of his children when they visited him in jail, according to the wife. Leopoldo Lopez was arrested two years ago during anti-government protests and jailed for 14 years.
An ally of President Maduro and former media chief, Ricardo Duran Trujillo, was shot dead by robbers in Caracas.
USA: A three year old boy was shot dead when a gun kept under his grandmother’s pillow went off while they were asleep.
11 states declared a state of emergency as record snow storms struck the East Coast. 31 people died, drivers were stranded, Broadway theatres were closed, thousands of homes were left without power, and political life on Capital Hill in Washington was suspended.