02 June 2016
Week in Brief: International
EU: The EU’s anti-fraud office reported loses of €888 million to fraud last year. The year before, losses to fraudulent claims came to €901 million. The office investigated 40 allegations of corruption against EU officials. The office could itself face criminal charges for using telephone wiretaps during an investigation in Belgium.
The European Court’s advocate general has ruled that companies can ban the wearing of religious symbols such as crucifixes and headscarves in the workplace.
It has been reported that the EU commissioner responsible for foreign policy has drawn up plans for the introduction of an EU army. The first step will be to set up an operational structure with a headquarters. It is said that the proposal has been kept confidential and will only be announced after the UK referendum. The details will be sent to EU governments the day after the referendum takes place.
FRANCE: Strikes by rail workers and air-traffic controllers are adding to the chaos resulting from those at oil-refineries and blockades of oil depots. Ports and bridges are also being blockaded. Riot police have broken some of the blockades. Production of some newspapers came to a halt after they refused to carry the striking unions’ messages. There were violent confrontations in Paris between police and demonstrators. Strikes are also threatened by workers at nuclear power plants, refuse collectors, ambulance crews, cash transporters, train drivers, metro drivers, bus drivers and dockers. Unions organising the strikes and demonstrations are threatening to bring the country to a halt when the Euro 2016 soccer championship begins this month.
Hail storms and rain storms in northern and central France have caused floods and damaged many vineyards in Burgundy.
GERMANY: A robbery in Dusseldorf is thought to have been the work of three former Baader-Meinhof terrorist gang members. They are believed to have carried out at least six robberies in the last seven months.
At least four people have died during heavy rain storms and floods which have destroyed houses in southwest Germany.
A girl of 15 with links to Isis has stabbed a policeman in Hanover.
GREECE: The refugees cleared from the Idomeni camp are shunning official camps. Some have headed back to Macedonia and others are setting up new makeshift camps only ten miles away at Polycastro.
ITALY: The refugee crisis deepens, with 13,000 migrants crossing the Mediterranean from North Africa in the last week. At least 880 drowned. 120,000 are already in migrant centres. There are plans to redistribute them around Italy, with at least 70 going to each of Italy’s 110 counties, to avoid ghetto-creating concentrations of ethnic minorities in big cities.
A Portuguese intelligence officer was arrested in Rome and accused of trying to sell NATO secrets to the Russians. A Russian intelligence officer was also arrested.
SPAIN: Lionel Messi (probably the finest soccer player in the world) and his father have gone on trial in Barcelona accused of tax evasion.
There are complaints that Spain is offering facilities to Russian naval vessels to refuel in Spanish controlled territories in North Africa. 57 vessels, including submarines, warships and amphibious craft have called at Ceuta since 2011. The US is concerned that Russia might be establishing a naval base in the enclave which may constitute a threat to NATO and European interests.
SWITZERLAND: The Gotthard base tunnel, the longest and deepest train tunnel in the world, has opened. It runs for 35 miles at more than 2000m beneath the Swiss Alps.
UKRAINE: The state security services raided the offices of Mikheil Saakashvili, the governor of Odessa and former president of Georgia, during an investigation into VAT claims. Mr Saakashvili is an outspoken opponent of corruption and one of the few pro-Western reformists to remain in high office. He is often in conflict with President Poroshenko.
Middle East and Africa
EGYPT: A mob of at least 300 armed men destroyed the homes of Christians in the village of Karam and attacked a Christian woman, stripping her naked and parading her through the streets. They were reacting to a rumour that her son was having an affair with a Muslim woman.
A military court sentenced 8 alleged members of the Muslim brotherhood to death, 12 to life imprisonment and 6 to 15 years in jail, in a trial which Amnesty International called “grossly unfair”
A 17 year old girl died in hospital during a genital mutilation operation. Female genital mutilation is banned in Egypt, but the country has the sixth highest rate in the world. The hospital has been closed down and the girl’s parents (her father is a doctor and her mother is a nurse) are under investigation.
IRAQ: Government forces have launched the final assault on Isis-held Fallujah. It is being fiercely defended by 1000 Isis fighters. The 50,000 residents are facing starvation. US military spokesmen claim that airstrikes have killed Maher Al-Bilawi, Isis’ leader in Fallujah.
There were more suicide bombs in Baghdad, targeting Shia neighbourhoods. Attacks on Saturday killed 20 and injured 50. Another 24 people were killed in bomb attacks on Monday.
ISRAEL: Minister Moshe Ya’alon resigned in protest at the appointment of the hard-line right-winger Avigdor Lieberman as defence minister.
The wife of prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu should be charged with the misuse of state funds, according to a police investigation.
KUWAIT: Three members of Kuwait’s ruling family were jailed for five years for insulting the country’s ruler and judiciary on WhatsApp. Three others were also jailed.
LIBYA: Thousands of migrants are attempting the sea crossing from North Africa to Italy as the weather improves. Hundreds have drowned.
SENEGAL: Hissène Habré, the ex-president of Chad, has been given a life sentence for crimes against humanity by a special court in Senegal which found him guilty of killing tens of thousands (and torturing hundreds of thousands) of his own people. See President Sall Strikes Again
SOUTH AFRICA: It was revealed in parliament that President Zuma used £370,000 from the police department’s budget to buy 11 cars for his 4 wives over the last 3 years. Mr Zuma’s misuse of state funds is causing outrage in a country suffering from high unemployment, economic problems and 2 years of drought.
SYRIA: The assault on the Isis capital Raqqa has been launched by the 15,000 strong US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (Arab and mostly Kurdish).
Isis has launched an assault on the rebel-held area between Aleppo and Turkish border, home to 165,000 refugees caught between Kurdish forces to the west, Isis to the east, and government forces to the south.
Air-strikes on the rebel-held city of Idlib killed at least 23, injured 200, and damaged a major hospital. Witnesses blame Russian planes, but the Russian defence ministry has denied such accusations.
YEMEN: Fresh fighting in the civil war has seen 69 killed and 25 injured over two days.
Far East, Asia and Pacific
CHINA: The Mayor of the new city of Sansha announced plans to develop some of the Paracel islands in disputed waters in the South Chia Seas into resorts for Chinese tourists.
PAKISTAN: The Taliban have elected a teacher and scholar, Mullah Haibatullah Akhundzada, rather than a field commander, as their new leader, following the death of the previous leader last week.
JAPAN: US president Barack Obama visited the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park with Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe and laid a wreath at a monument to the atomic bomb’s victims. He spoke in favour of nuclear disarmament and met survivors of the atomic bomb attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. He and other world leaders were in Japan for the G7 summit.
PHILIPPINES: Islamist group Abu Sayyaf threatened to murder another Canadian hostage if a ransom is not paid. But Canada is holding firm in its refusal and urging other world leaders to do same (the UK and USA don’t pay ransoms – France, Italy and Spain allegedly do).
SOUTH KOREA: South Korea fired warning shots at a North Korean patrol vessel and fishing boats in disputed waters off the Korean coast.
A North Korean missile launch failed. It was the fourth attempt in two months.
ARGENTINA: The leaked Panama papers have revealed that President Macri has offshore accounts in the Bahamas. He has vowed to withdraw the money and invest it in the Argentine economy. He was elected last year on promises to revitalise the economy.
BRAZIL: Prosecutors have begun investigating all federal-funded construction contracts for Olympic venues. Five construction companies involved in the Olympics are already being investigated for bribery and corruption.
Secretly recorded telephone conversations between the leader of the Senate, Renan Calheiros, and the ex-head of an oil company who has been charged with corruption, suggest that Mr Calheiros is hoping to put obstacles in the way of the corruption enquiries. President Rousseff claims that Mr Calheiros and his fellow PMDB party member, the leader of the Assembly Michel Temer, engineered her impeachment so that they could undermine the enquiry once they took power.
Mr Temer’s new planning minister Romero Juca resigned when secretly recorded tapes allegedly revealed his attempts to limit enquiries into corruption at Petrobas.
Mr Temer’s new anti-corruption minister Fabiano Silveira also resigned when secretly recorded tapes allegedly revealed his attempts to subvert the investigation.
Health experts are calling for this summer’s Olympic Games to be moved from Rio or postponed, because of the zika virus health risk.
USA: The state department’s inspector general published a report confirming that Hillary Clinton used a personal e-mail server rather than an official e-mail server as secretary of state. Her former chief of staff Cheryl Mills was obliged to give a deposition about it. See Hillary’s Hopes
There are crucial primaries in California for this week; polls suggest that Hilary Clinton’s lead in this state is dissolving as Bernie Sanders appears to be catching up.
VENEZUELA: High-ranking ex-army officers publicly criticised President Maduro and his government for the “maelstrom of anarchy” engulfing the country.
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