05 May 2016
Week in Brief: International
EU: The European Court of Auditors criticised the EU’s diplomatic corps for over-spending on buildings. 85 out of 140 delegations exceed the office floor space cap of 35 square metres per individual. The 25 officials in the delegation to the UN in Geneva have 2,600 square metres; the 57 officials in the delegation to the UN in New York have 4200 square metres; each excess square metre is estimated to cost EU tax payers €1.3 million. A villa in Tanzania costing €25,000 a year has stood empty for the past 7 years. EU office buildings in Botswana and Gambia have been unoccupied for 12 years. Ambassadorial residences in South Africa and Cape Verde have been unused since 2012. See The Gold Aureus of Carausius.
FRANCE: A manager is taking his former employers to court, claiming that boredom damaged his mental and physical health after he was side-lined at work. Employment laws make it difficult for employers to sack employees, and the high levels of unemployment make employees reluctant to resign.
GERMANY: Berlin-Brandenburg airport, 5 years behind schedule and £5 billion over budget, may never be completed, admitted the project’s ex-chief planner this week. There are rumours that it will have to be torn down and rebuilt. An engineer who raised concerns about bribery and corruption at the project is thought to have been poisoned while drinking coffee at the construction site last May; he has since recovered and returned to work.
ITALY: The Supreme Court ruled that a hungry person stealing food to satisfy immediate needs has not committed a crime.
An ex-CIA agent arrested in Portugal will be extradited to Italy, where she was tried in absentia in 2009 for allegedly taking part in the kidnapping and rendition of a terrorist suspect from Milan in 2003. She faces six years in jail.
NORWAY: A helicopter flying from a North Sea oil platform to Norway crashed into the sea, killing all 13 passengers, including one Briton.
RUSSIA: A rocket launch at the Russian space agency Roscosmos’s new Vostochny Cosmodrome was cancelled at the last minute. President Putin had travelled 3500 miles from Moscow to witness it. The new spacebase is unfinished and work has been plagued by delays, strikes and allegations of corruption since it began in 2010. The Soyuz rocket was launched a day late.
SPAIN: King Felipe dissolved parliament and called new elections for next month. The country has been without a government since last year’s elections resulted in a deadlock.
Middle East and Africa
EGYPT: The head of the Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms, Ahmed Abdullah, has been arrested on terrorism charges. The ECRF has been given power of attorney by the family of the murdered Italian student Giulio Regeni and its lawyers are trying to gain access to police files about his case. An arrest warrant has been issued for Malek Adly, a rights lawyer also associated with the case.
Journalists have begun a sit-in at their union and have called for the resignation of the interior minister after two of them were arrested. Interior ministry documents accidentally emailed to reporters appear to suggest that the media should be curbed and that a gagging order should be put on investigations into the murder of Giulio Regeni.
EQUATORIAL GUINEA: President Teodoro Obiang Nguema won 93.7% of the votes in last week’s presidential election. He is Africa’s longest-serving leader, having been president for 37 years already.
IRAQ: Violent protests broke out in Baghdad as thousands of demonstrators demanded the resignations of the president, prime minister and speaker, and early elections.
A US Navy Seal was killed in action against Isis northwest of Mosel. He was embedded with Kurdish Peshmerga forces. He is the third US soldier to die since the renewal of US involvement in 2014.
LIBYA: A general loyal to the eastern government is massing troops for an attack on the Isis stronghold of Sirte. The government of national unity is asking him to wait, worried that his action might restart conflict with militias in the west of country.
SAUDI ARABIA: The Binladen group, one of the country’s largest construction companies, has laid off 77,000 foreign workers and 12,000 Saudis, about 45% of its workforce. It has lost contracts since one of its cranes collapsed and killed 107 people in the Grand Mosque in Mecca last September, and since the government has been cutting spending. Some workers rioted in Riyadh, claiming that they haven’t been paid in 7 months.
Women have been given the right to own a copy of their marriage contract.
SOUTH AFRICA: The High Court in Pretoria has ruled that the chief prosecutor should not have dropped corruption charges against Jacob Zuma in 2009. The chief prosecutor’s decision allowed Zuma to run for president. The High Court found Zuma’s former financial advisor guilty of fraud and corruption in a 2005 deal which allegedly involved Zuma.
SYRIA: 60 people died in a 24 hour bombardment of rebel-held areas in Aleppo by government and Russian forces. The fatalities included 27 patients and two doctors in a Medecin Sans Frontieres hospital. Over 200 people (including at least 34 children) have been killed in the last week as government forces prepare an attack on the last rebel-held quarters of city. Diplomatic efforts to save the cease-fire continue.
The Pentagon reported that the fight against Isis has significantly depleted the financial and human resources of Isis in Syria and Iraq in the last year.
Documents produced by Isis defectors claim that Assad has been collaborating with Isis over oil trading and armed conflict.
TURKEY: At least 13 people were wounded by a female suicide bomber blowing herself up in the city of Bursa.
Two police officers were killed and 22 other people injured when a car bomb exploded outside a police station in Gazientep. Police suspect Isis and have raided the home of a militant.
A British lecturer at Bilgi University, Istanbul, has been charged with supporting terrorism after apparently publicising Kurdish new year celebrations.
YEMEN: A plague of locusts now threatens to devastate crops in a country already facing famine after more than a year of rebellion, civil war and heavy bombardment.
Far East, Asia and Pacific
BANGLADESH: A Hindu tailor was hacked to death by a machete-wielding gang. An Islamic militant group associated with Isis have claimed responsibility, saying that he was killed for insulting the Prophet Muhammad. Such murders are becoming increasingly common in Bangladesh.
CHINA: A new law has transferred control of foreign charities, academic bodies and other non-government bodies from the civil affairs ministry to the police.
NORTH KOREA: Kim Jong Un announced that the seventh congress of the Workers Party of Korea will be convened on May 6. It will be the first congress since 1980.
South Korea reported a failed missile test in the North; the medium-range ballistic weapon exploded only seconds after launch.
PHILIPPINES: Islamist militants of Abu Sayef have released 10 Indonesian sailors they were holding hostage. They still hold at least 11 foreign hostages.
CUBA: The first cruise ship from the USA to visit Cuba in 50 years arrived in Havana. Chanel and Karl Lagerfeld produced the first fashion show in Cuba for decades.
TRINIDAD: US officials reported that at least 89 Trinidadians, out of a population of 1.3 million, have gone to Syria as Isis volunteers, and warned that the Caribbean is becoming a recruiting-ground for Islamic militants.
USA: Donald Trump won the Indiana primary, more or less securing the Republican nomination. Bernie Sanders won the Democrats’ Indiana primary. See comment They Think It’s All Over.
Ted Cruz picked Carly Fiorina as running-mate (potential vice-president), before suspending his campaign after defeat in Indiana.
In Milwaukee, a two-year old child accidentally shot his mother dead when he found a gun on the floor of their car. In Indiana, a two year old boy accidentally shot himself with a gun he found in his mother’s bag. In Baltimore, police shot and injured a 13 year old boy who was allegedly carrying a replica gun. In Pennsylvania, a man was shot dead during a church service in an argument over seats.
Former US Speaker Dennis Hastert admitted to sexual abusing schoolboys and has been jailed for 15 months for hiding payments to one of his accusers.
VENEZUELA: In an attempt to save energy, President Maduro introduced a 2 day working week for the public sector, shut schools on Fridays and put clocks forward by half an hour. The country faces power shortages and food shortages. The Legislature (National Assembly) voted to remove the food minister. In Maracaibo there are daily blackouts, looting and soldiers on the streets. Protests are organising a petition calling for the president’s removal.
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