Issue 70:2016 09 08: Week in Brief (international)

08 September 2016

Week in Brief: International

UN Flag to denote International news


EU: The EU’s head of foreign affairs, Federica Mogherini, announced plans for integrated EU military structures, to be discussed at a summit in Bratislava next week.

FRANCE: Prosecutors recommended that Nicolas Sarkozy should be tried over allegations that fraudulent accounting hid over-spending during elections in 2012.  A judge will decide whether or not a trial will go ahead.  M Sarkozy is campaigning for the leadership of the Republican party leadership; if he wins, he will stand in the presidential elections next year.

A new migrant hostel in Paris was burnt down, in what seems to be the latest in a growing number of attacks on migrant centres throughout France and Germany.  The government is planning to remove migrants from the streets and from unofficial sites such as the Calais Jungle and put them in official centres in towns.  The approaches to Calais were obstructed by protests and demonstrators calling for the Jungle to be cleared.

GERMANY: Mrs Merkel’s party, the Christian Democrat Union, was beaten into third place in elections in her home state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania. It gained 19% of the votes; the Alternative for Germany (AfD, a right wing, populist, anti-immigration party) won 21%; the Social Democratic Party won 30.5%. The election was dominated by the issue of immigration.

GREECE: The EU/migrant deal appears to be in suspension after Turkey withdrew a dozen liaison officers from Greece (as part of the post attempted coup purges) bringing deportations to a halt.  The number of migrants arriving in Greece continues to rise after immigration was halted when the deal was first implemented.

NORWAY: Norway announced that it intends to build a high fence the length of its border with Russia to stop the entry of migrants who may wish to claim asylum.  Norway has abandoned its previous liberal asylum policy after 31,000 immigrants from around the world claimed asylum last year.

RUSSIA: The Kremlin has black-listed Russia’s only independent pollster, the Levada Centre, for receiving funding of £94,000 from the US defence department.  Last week, the Levada Centre published a report suggesting that support for President Putin was declining as this month’s parliamentary elections approach.

SPAIN: The prime minister Mariano Rajoy lost two key votes, so Spain may soon face its third general election in a year.

Two cases of Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever (a rare tick-born viral illness) were diagnosed in Madrid.  One of the victims has died.

Middle East and Africa

GABON: The official results of last week’s presidential elections give President Ali Bongo 49.8% of the votes, and his challenger Jean Ping 48.2%.  President Bongo declared himself the winner, but Ping’s followers dispute the result, alleging cheating.  The results have triggered violence: the parliament building was set alight in protest, and two people were killed and 19 wounded during a pre-dawn raid by government troops on Ping’s headquarters.  EU observers criticised the election for ‘lacking transparency’, and have asked for the publication of each poling station’s results.  The French prime minister Manuel Valls recommended a recount.  Jean Ping is calling for a general strike.

IRAN: British Airwaves are  to resume direct flights to Iran, a decision criticised by Richard Ratcliffe, whose wife has been arrested and imprisoned by Revolutionary Guards in Iran under mysterious circumstances.

IRAQ: A wave of car-bomb suicide attacks has killed more than 20 people and wounded more than 50 in Baghdad.

NIGERIA: The army admitted that some of its officers are selling arms to Boko Haram.

SYRIA: The Turkish army’s Operation Euphrates Shield continues to drive Isis from the last of its territory along the Turkish border, but clashes between Turkish forces and the US-backed Syrian Democratic Force (a coalition dominated by the Kurdish YPG militia) are escalating.  The US has called for the Kurds to withdraw east of Euphrates, but Turkey summoned the US ambassador to complain that Kurdish militias were still west of the river.

Rebel forces advanced in Hama province, capturing the town of Soran (a strategic position on the road between Aleppo and Damascus) from the regime. Following last week’s surrender of Daraya to regime forces, however, two more Damascan suburbs and the town of Waer, held by rebels under long-term siege and punishing air attacks, are negotiating a similar surrender.

At the G2 summit in China, Presidents Obama and Putin admitted that US/Russian negotiations towards a cease-fire in Syrai had broken down.

In Aleppo, rebel-held areas are once again under siege by regime forces, and Syrian government warplanes have been accused of dropping chlorine bombs on civilians.

A wave of Isis suicide bombings hit the regime-held cities of Tartous, Homs, Damascus and Hasakeh.  At least 45 people were killed.

TURKEY: The vice-president of the State Theatres announced that only Turkish plays will be performed, and that planned productions of work by Shakespeare, Chekhov, Bertolt Brecht and Dario Fo will be cancelled.

ZIMBABWE: Police banned public protests for two weeks, to pre-empt an opposition-planned demonstration for electoral reform.

Far East, Asia and Pacific

AFGHANISTAN: Three Taliban bomb-attacks killed more than 20 people and wounded 100 in Kabul.

CHINA: China hosted the G20 summit.

HONG KONG: In elections to half of the 70 seats of the city’s legislative council (the other half is directly appointed by business groups), 30 seats were won by pro-democracy opposition candidates (including Nathan Law, who led the 2014 pro-democracy umbrella movement).

INDIA: Violence continues in Kashmir, after a separatist leader was killed by the military in July.  72 people have been killed (including three policemen), 11,000 injured (3800 wounded by pellet guns – 100 people blinded, 500 with other eye damage).  Riot police are soon to use spice bombs/chilli grenades instead of pellet guns (and will also use water cannon and sonic weapons).

JAPAN: Typhoon Lionrock hit north-east Japan.  The region’s worst typhoon in 65 years destroyed buildings, caused widespread flooding, and left 11 people dead.

The new defence minister, Tomomi Inada, called for a dramatic increase in the defence budget.

KOREA, NORTH: Three ballistic missiles were test-launched from Hwangju, south of Pyongyang.

LAOS: At the summit of Asia-Pacific leaders, President Obama pledged $90 million to help clear the 90 million unexploded cluster bombs dropped on Laos by the US airforce during the Vietnamese war.

PAKISTAN: 14 people were killed and 40 wounded in a bomb attack on a district court in Mardan.  A breakaway faction of the Taliban claimed responsibility.

PHILIPPINES: A bomb attack killed 12 people and wounded another 60 in Daveo, President Duterte’s home city, on the island of Mindanao.  Officials suspect Islamist militants.  At least 15 soldiers and 25 jihadists were killed this week on the island of Jolo, where the militant group Abu Sayyaf is based.  The president declared a ‘state of lawlessness’ and cancelled his first official overseas visit (to Brunei).

President Duterte called President Obama a ‘son of a whore’ during a press conference. President Obama subsequently cancelled a meeting due to be held with Duterte at the upcoming Southeast Asian Nations summit in Laos.

SINGAPORE: The cases of Zika rose to 242, with 27 new cases diagnosed. A program of fumigation and spraying is in process.

UZBEKISTAN: President Karimov was announced dead, following rumours of his illness and death last week. See comment The Week Of The Living Dead.


BRAZIL: President Dilma Rousseff has been impeached: the senate voted against her by 61 out of 81, well above the required two-thirds.  Acting president and former vice president, Michel Temer, was immediately sworn in as president.  He inherits a country in deep recession; its economy contracted by 3.8% in this year’s second quarter.

CUBA: The first US commercial airline service to Cuba in 55 years began this week with JetBlue Flight 387 from Fort Lauderdale (Florida) to Santa Clara, Cuba.

EL SALVADOR: The captain of El Salvador’s soccer team alleged that a businessman attempted to bribe them to throw a World Cup qualifying match in favour of Honduras.

USA: Donald Trump visited Mexico and met President Pena Nieto.

The governor of Florida declareda  state of emergency as the category 1 hurricane Hermine approached, threatening 75mph winds, 20 inches of rain, and tides 2.4m higher than normal.

A Space X Falcon 9 rocket blew up on a launch pad at Cape Canaveral.  It was being prepared to carry a communications satellite into space.  The accident is a setback to Elon Musk’s space ventures in particular, and a blow to commercial space enterprise in general.

VENEZUELA: A huge anti-government rally followed the arrests of a number of opposition activists.  Hundreds of thousands demonstrated peacefully in Caracas, and as many as a million protested across the country.


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