Issue 83:2016 12 08: Week in Brief International

08 December 2016




AUSTRIA: Independent candidate (former Green leader) Alexander Van Der Bellen beat Norbert Hoffer (far right Freedom Party) in last Sunday’s re-run of the presidential election, with 53% of the vote against 47%.

FINLAND: A man was arrested after apparently random rifle shootings killed three women as they left a restaurant in a small town. Finland has a high rate of gun ownership but a low rate of gun crime.

FRANCE: President Hollande declared that he will step down next May, after the end of his five year term. He would face almost certain defeat in the presidential election. Prime minister Manual Valls (a business-friendly reformist) resigned from the government to launch his bid for the party leadership in next month’s Socialist primaries. President Hollande named Bernard Cazeneuve, the interior minister, as the care-taker prime-minister for the next six months leading to presidential elections. See comment Eurexit.

Intelligence services told political parties to improve their cybersecurity because Russian hacking and cyber-disruption is expected in next year’s presidential election.

In the south west, thousands of ducks were slaughtered to prevent the spread of bird flu, detected at a farm in the Tarn department. This has disrupted the Christmas foie gras production.

GERMANY: A Spanish-born convert to Islam recently recruited into the BfV (German counter-intelligence service) is being held on suspicion of terrorist activities.

A teenage Afghan immigrant was arrested under suspicion of the rape and murder of a volunteer helper at a refugee centre, who was the daughter of a senior EU official.

GREECE: A court ruled that three of the eight Turkish soldiers who fled to Greece to claim asylum after the failed coup against President Erdogan will not be extradited.  The other five await further ruling.  None of them has been granted asylum.

ITALY: Prime minister Renzi’s proposals for constitutional reform were defeated in last Sunday’s referendum.  59.1% voted against them, 40.9% voted for them.  Opponents claimed that they would have made the government too powerful.  Renzi resigned.  President Mattarella must now choose between a Democrat government with a new leader, a coalition government, an imposed government of technocrats and experts, or a general election. See comment Eurexit.

NETHERLANDS: Geert Wilders, the leader of the far right Party For Freedom, is on trial on two charges of race hate. The publicity has improved his ratings in the polls. There will be a general election next March.

POLAND: Eight miners were killed when tunnels collapsed in a copper mine hit by a magnitude 4.4 earthquake originating 1,500m below ground.  Nine others were injured.

RUSSIA: An unmanned cargo ship carrying fuel and food to the international space station burnt up six and a half minutes after being launched by Roscosmos.

The Novaya Gazeta newspaper claimed that votes were falsified in favour of the ruling United Russia party in last September’s parliamentary elections.  Opposition parties are calling for an investigation.

UKRAINE: The Ukraine army conducted missile tests near the Crimean peninsula.

Middle East and Africa

GAMBIA: President Yahya Jammeh (who seized power in a coup in 1994, and enjoyed four terms of autocratic rule) conceded defeat to businessman Adama Barrow in this week’s elections.  Mr Barrow aims to improve the country’s bad human rights record, and could return it to the Commonwealth and International Criminal Court.

IRAQ: As Isis is pushed from Mosul (and Raqqa in Syria), security forces are wary of a “Raqqa scatter” – Isis dispersing as a state and reforming as a more traditional cell-based terrorist group.

ISRAEL: Police questioned Sara Netanyahu, the prime minister’s wife, for 11 hours about allegations that she misused public funds.  Police are also investigating allegations against the Netanyahus’ son, Yair.

Parliament voted to legalise thousands of homes built illegally in settlements on the West Bank in recent decades.  The controversial vote makes any peace agreement with the Palestinians even less likely.

LIBYA: Three women suicide bomers, hiding among refugees fleeing Sirte, killed five soldiers and injured 38.

A final push by Libyan soldiers has driven the last Isis forces out of Sirte .  In the fierce seven-month battle to recapture city, reports say that 711 Libyan soldiers were killed and 3200 wounded.

RWANDA: A former army officer has gone on trial at a military tribunal, charged with genocide and crimes against humanity from 1994, when about 800,000 Tutsis were killed by Hutus.

SAUDI ARABIA: A Saudi prince has called for women to be allowed to drive.

Computers at ministries and other government agencies came under serious cyber-attack, which officials blamed on Iran.

SYRIA: Turkey appears to be approaching a détente with Russia in order to secure a buffer zone between Kurdish enclaves along its border.

In Aleppo, Assad forces now control three-quarters of rebel areas.  Russia is arranging corridors for the safe passages out of the remaining rebel territory for civilians and surrendered fighters, but rebels have refused to surrender or withdraw.

An EU plan proposed that Assad would have a part in a transitional arrangement, but suggested that power should be devolved to the provinces. It also offered aid and investment.

TURKEY: The Istanbul stock exchange converted all its cash assets to Turkish lire in an effort to strengthen the country’s currency which is in danger of collapsing.

Far East, Asia and Pacific

INDIA: Factories are closing and workers are being laid off because of the lack of cash following the scrapping of the two biggest denomination notes.

INDONESIA: Eight opposition figures were arrested under suspicion of treason.  Supporters of President Widodo claim that they were plotting a coup.

KOREA, SOUTH: Protests calling for the resignation of President Park continue, with two outbreaks of fire thought to be arson attacks.

The defence ministry reported that its computer systems have been hacked by North Korea.

NEW ZEALAND: Prime minister John Key resigned suddenly and surprisingly.

PHILIPINNES: Vice-president Leni Robredo resigned from the cabinet as housing minister, following disagreements with President Duterte.  She remains vice-president, however, which is an elected office.

THAILAND: Crown prince Maha Vajiralongkorn became King Rama X.  His father, King Bhumibol Adulyadej died seven weeks ago.


BRAZIL: Congress’s attempts to water down an anti-corruption bill and rush it through parliament have been criticised because they were undertaken while the nation was distracted by mourning the tragedy of the plane crash in Colombia.  Thousands protested.

The Supreme Court ordered the head of the Senate, Renan Calheiros, to step down as he is facing corruption charges.

COLOMBIA: Congress unanimously backed the revised peace-deal with Farc.

USA: Donald Trump nominated the former Goldman Sachs banker Steve Mnuchin as treasury secretary.  He also nominated the retired general James ‘Mad Dog’ Mattis as defence secretary, and Ben Carson (a former rival in the Republican leadership primaries) as secretary of housing and urban development.

The president-elect angered China by taking a phone call from President Tsai of Taiwan.  The US has had no diplomatic relations with Taiwan since 1979.

Donald Trump criticised Boeing for the high cost of building two new presidential planes, and threatened to cancel the deal.

In New York, world chess champion Magnus Carlsen of Norway successfully defended his title against challenger Sergei Karjakin of Russia. They were level after 12 games played over three weeks, but Carlsen won the rapid-play four-game tiebreaker on the last day (his birthday).

The US army backed down over the construction of oil pipeline under Lake Oahe, which was opposed by the Standing Rock tribe of Sioux.

40 people died in a fire in warehouse in Oakland, nr San Francisco, California. The warehouse was a venue for parties and artists studios. It burnt for 12 hours.


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