03 November 2016
Week in Brief: International
FRANCE: President Hollande said that the migrant camps in Paris would be cleared, with migrants either registered and moved to official centres or deported.
The EU’s anti-fraud agency has ordered Marine le Pen to return €339,000 of funding used to pay a bodyguard and a manager at the National Front’s headquarters.
ICELAND: The governing Independence Party and its coalition partner the Progressive Party won 29 out of 63 seats in the general election. An opposition alliance of three parties (including the Pirate Party, which increased its seats from 3 to 10) won 27 seats.
ITALY: A 6.6 magnitude earthquake hit central Italy. It was the most powerful earthquake in Italy for almost fifty years, the fourth serious quake in four months, and the third in the past week. Many buildings were destroyed, including churches and other buildings of artistic and historic value. There were only 30 injuries, however, because most people, alarmed by earlier quakes, were sleeping in their cars or had moved into robust modern buildings. Aftershocks continue to shake the area.
NATO: Jens Stoltenberg, Nato’s head, announced plans for the biggest build-up of western military forces in eastern Europe since the end of the Cold War.
NETHERLANDS: Geert Wilders, the leader of the populist far-right Freedom Party, is on trial, charged with race hate crimes, for the second time.
SPAIN: Spain withdrew permission for Russian warships to refuel in the port of Ceuta on their way through the Mediterranean to Syria.
Mariano Rajoy was sworn in as leader of a minority government, having survived a vote of confidence because the opposition Socialist Party abstained in the interests of political stability. Mr Rajoy’s conservative People’s Party has 137 out of 350 seats in parliament.
UKRAINE: A hacking group associated with the SBU, Ukraine’s secret service, have leaked thousands of Kremlin e-mails which they claim show Russian control of the pro-Moscow separatists in eastern Ukraine.
New anti-corruption legislation has forced all public servants to declare their wealth. Eight MPs missed the deadline. The total cash owned by the other 413 MPs was revealed as £383 million. An MP’s basic salary is £6650.
Middle East and Africa
AFGHANISTAN: The Taliban have launched an attack west of the capital Kabul, cutting off the road to Kandahar, the country’s second largest city.
Isis kidnapped and murdered 26 farm workers in Ghor, central Afghanistan.
CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC: 25 people were killed in clashes between Islamic and Christian armed groups.
GAMBIA: Gambia denounced the International Criminal Court as racist and announced that it is withdrawing from its jurisdiction. See comment The International Criminal Court.
IRAQ: In the battle for Mosul, Iraqi forces are now in the eastern outskirts, and have cleared the suburb of Gogjali. Special forces have taken the state tv station. It is reported that Isis has killed up to 300 former policemen inside the city.
Kurdish forces have paused, having taken ground on the approaches to the city, to allow Iraqi forces to continue to the city itself. They are still having to contend with Isis fighters in secret hideouts and tunnels.
Shia militias are in action to the west of Mosul, attempting to cut off the route to the Syrian border.
Turkey has 2000 men in a base north of the city and more troops are on the way. Turkey claims that they are there to protect the native Sunni Turkmen minority population and to counter the Shia militias’ Iranian influence, and has ignored the Iraqi government’s requests to remove them.
Amnesty International reported that Iraqi forces used white phosphorous shells in an attack on Isis forces in the depopulated village of Karemlash, 12 miles east of Mosul. White phosphorous is a legal weapon unless used on civilians.
Isis bombers killed 17 people in terror attacks on a Shia area of Baghdad.
LEBANON: A president has been elected, after 29 months without one. New president Michel Aoun is a Maronite Christian, as required by the country’s power-sharing rules (the prime minister is a Sunni Muslim, the speaker of parliament is a Shia Muslim).
MOROCCO: Thousands of protestors have been demonstrating throughout the country, in response to the death of a fishmonger who was crushed in a bin lorry while trying to recover his stock of swordfish which had been confiscated and dumped by the police. Eleven officials, including two policemen, have been arrested over the death.
NIGERIA: President Buhari’s campaign against corruption has turned on the judiciary, with seven judges now under investigation.
SAUDI ARABIA: Saudi Arabia was re-elected to the UN human rights council. China, Rwanda, Egypt and Cuba were also among nations which were elected to the council.
SOMALIA: Isis fighters took control of Qandala, a town on the coast.
SOUTH AFRICA: Rioting in universities across the country intensified, with students setting fire to libraries and lecture halls and disrupting exams. The student leader Mcebo Dlamini was denied bail after his application (claiming that he needs to write a university paper) was judged to be false. He is facing charges of theft, possessing weapons, damage to property and assaulting a policeman. Charges have also been brought against him for calling Jews “devils”. He was cleared of hate speech last year, following an interview where he declared his admiration for Adolf Hitler.
SOUTH SUDAN: A UN peacekeeping general, Lieutenant General Johnson Mogoa Kimani Ondieki of Kenya, has been sacked, following criticism of UN forces for failing to intervene last July when government soldiers raped, tortured and murdered civilians (including journalists and foreign aid workers) during an outbreak of civil strife and disorder in Juba, South Sudan.
SYRIA: Opposition rebel forces launched an assault on Western Aleppo, attempting to break the siege. The Russian defence minister postponed peace talks indefinitely. Russia has suspended air attacks on Aleppo for the last two weeks; it is thought that preparations are being made for an all-out attempt to take the city before the new US president has settled into the job.
The USA is urging a campaign to recapture Raqqa, Isis’ capital, but the effort is hampered by Turkish reluctance to allow Kurdish forces to take part in it.
TURKEY: Another 10,000 civil servants were dismissed and 15 newspapers closed down, and the monitoring of conversations between lawyers and their clients was authorised. The editor of the newspaper Cumhuriyet and a number of its journalists have been arrested.
YEMEN: President Hadi rejected a UN peace plan. A Saudi coalition airstrike on a prison in Hodeida killed at least 60 people.
ZIMBABWE: The finance minister announced the issue of temporary bond notes to replace bank notes. The US dollar has been used as the country’s currency since its own collapsed in 2009, but there is a shortage of US dollar notes as they have been hoarded or smuggled abroad. The move will be introduced via President Mugabe’s extraordinary powers, not via parliamentary legislation. Many fear it will result in the return of hyperinflation.
Far East, Asia and Pacific
AUSTRALIA: An underwater heatwave is killing off the northeastern stretch of the Great Barrier Reef.
CHINA: There have been secret talks between China and the Vatican about ordaining bishops in China: bishops appointed by the Vatican operate in underground churches, refusing to swear allegiance to Beijing and the atheist communist party; Beijing appoints its own bishops which are seen as illegal by the Vatican. There are 10.5 million Catholics in China. There are no diplomatic relations between the two states; the Vatican recognises Taiwan but not China.
PAKISTAN: The government banned rallies in Islamabad, following a call by Imran Khan for protests to demand the resignation of prime minister Nawaz Sharif over the ‘Panama Papers’ revelations about the Sharif family’s offshore wealth. 1500 of Mr Khan’s followers were detained by the police. Mr Khan cancelled the protest when the high court agreed to open financial investigations.
PHILIPPINES: President Duterte said that God spoke to him on the flight back from Japan and told him to stop swearing.
The US government has cancelled the sale of assault rifles to the Philippine police, following objections in the US Senate that they could be used for extra-judicial killings.
USA: The FBI director James Comey announced new investigations into e-mails which “appear to be pertinent” to the FBI’s previous investigation into Hilary Clinton’s use of a private e-mail server when she was secretary of state. He has been criticised for the nature and timing of the announcement.
See comment It’s My Party…
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