Issue 90: 2017 02 02:Week in Brief International

02 February 2017


UN Flag to denote International news


AUSTRIA:  The government announced a ban on the burka and the niqab, and other measures to strengthen security and to integrate migrants.  The governing coalition (Social Democrat Party and People’s Party) is hoping that such measures will take the wind out of the far-right Freedom party’s sails before next year’s elections.

CZECH REPUBLIC:  Hackers have penetrated the foreign ministry’s computer system.  The foreign minister said that the cyber-attack resembled the recent attack on the US Democrat party, and was probably launched by a foreign power.

FRANCE:  The far-left Benoit Hamon is the new leader of the governing Socialist party.  He won the election with 58% of the vote, defeating Manuel Valls who won 41%.  The outgoing leader, President Hollande, refused to vote.  Benoit Hamon will be the Socialist’s candidate in the Presidential elections this spring.

A criminal investigation is examining claims that Francois Fillon’s wife did not work as his assistant even though she was paid to do so.  The investigation is also examining claims that she was paid a salary by a magazine without working for it. The Republican leader denies the allegations.  New accusations came from the Journal du Dimanche which claims that 10 years ago Fillon took money which was supposed to pay assistants in the senate.  Mr and Mrs Fillon were questioned for five hours by investigators in Versailles police station.  Police officers raided the French parliament as part of the investigation.

See comment Politics and the Post-Work World.

The European Parliament ordered Marine le Pen to repay €298,497.87 of her MEP allowance, relating to two assistants working for her Front National party.

Emmanual Macron (En Marche), the centrist outsider, is closing the gap in the polls for the presidential election.

GERMANY:  Forty Turkish army officers, posted to NATO but suspended from duty and told to return to Turkey following last year’s attempted coup, have asked for asylum.

GREECE:  The Supreme Court has rejected Turkey’s request for the extradition of the eight Turkish servicemen who fled to Greece following the failed coup last July.  The court decided that they might face torture and unfair trial in Turkey, which makes extradition illegal.  They will now apply for asylum.

The defence ministry reported a stand-off between Greek and Turkish warships after three Turkish naval crafts entered Greek waters near the disputed Imla islands in the Aegean.

RUSSIA:  A department head from the FSB spy agency and the manager of a private cybersecurity company have been arrested as part of an inquiry into state treason (i.e. spying on behalf of a foreign agency) offences.  It has been reported that they have been charged, with two others, with leaking details of cyber-attacks against the US to a US organisation.

Launches of the Proton-M space rockets have been suspended, after it was discovered that workers making engines for it have been using cheap metals instead of heat-resistant precious metals. An investigation is underway at the Voronezh factory.

UKRAINE:  Renewed fighting has broken out between pro-Russian separatists and Ukrainian forces, despite the agreement of a new truce on December 23rd.  At least 13 people have been killed.

Middle East and Africa

CAMEROON:  At least 10 young men died on a recruitment exercise with the army.  Another 70 had to be treated in hospital.  The exercise involved running 18 miles carrying packs weighing 20kg under a hot sun, and was part of a drive to recruit troops for the fight against Boko Haram.

ETHIOPIA:  African leaders called for a withdrawal from the International Criminal Court, at an African Union summit in Addis Ababa.

GAMBIA:  President Adama Barrow returned to Gambia.  He received a warm welcome from enthusiastic crowds

IRAN:  A medium-range ballistic missile was test-launched in central Iran.  The French foreign minister said that the exercise was “contrary to the spirit” of the recent nuclear weapons deal.

IRAQ:  A report by Human Rights Watch accused Kurdish security forces of detaining and torturing hundreds of boys aged between 11 and 17 in the fight against Isis.

KENYA:  Farms, tourist camps and tourist lodges have been attacked and destroyed by armed nomadic groups bringing their herds onto private land.

SOUTH SUDAN:  Fighting broke out between rebel and government forces in Malakal, the country’s second largest city.

SYRIA:  Rebel leaders have been invited to talks in Moscow, to discuss a constitutional settlement which would lead to elections in which Assad might be allowed to stand, something which rebels have always refused.

Donald Trump signed an executive order calling for plans for a safe zone for refugees within Syria.  Russia and the regime dismissed the idea as impractical.

There were rumours that Assad has been hospitalised with a stroke.

Regime forces recovered control of Damascus’s water supply by driving rebels from Wadi Barada, west of Damascus.

YEMEN:  A US soldier was killed and three others wounded during a special services raid on an al-Qaeda camp.  An Osprey aircraft crashed and had to be destroyed.   Fourteen militants were killed, including three al-Qaeda leaders.  A number of civilians were also killed, according to locals, including the 8 year old daughter of an al-Qaeda leader killed in 2011.

Saudi Arabia claimed that a Saudi naval frigate was attacked by Houthi rebels in a ‘suicide gunboat’ – two sailors were killed and three injured when the boat was rammed into the frigate.  The rebels claimed that they hit the frigate with a rocket.

Far East, Asia and Pacific

AUSTRALIA:  The city of Freemantle will no longer celebrate Australia Day – the anniversary of Captain James Cook’s landing in 1788 – but will hold a culturally-inclusive event instead.

BURMA:  Ko Ni, a prominent lawyer and advisor to Burmese leader Aung San Suu Kyi, was murdered by a gunman at Rangoon airport.  Ko Ni was a Muslim, who defended the rights of the country’s persecuted Muslim minority, attacked hate speech and criticised the power of the military.

JAPAN:  The government plans to limit overtime to no more than 100 hours a month, to prevent overwork.  The victims of two recent cases of karoshi (death from overwork) had been working up to 130 hours and at least 112 hours of overtime a month.

PAKISTAN:  Five activists who have criticised the military have been kidnapped.

The man accused of masterminding the 2008 Mumbai bombings – Hafiz Saeed – has been placed under house arrest.  Mr Saeed is a cleric and former leader of the terrorist group Lashkar-e-Taiba.  He now heads a charity which is allegedly a front for the terrorist group.  His detention is believed to be the result of pressure from India and the USA.

PHILIPPINES:  An airstrike on an Abu Sayyaf terror group camp on Mindanao Island killed 15 militants and badly wounded its leader Isnilon Hapilon.  The ASG is allied to Isis, and is based in camps on the southern islands, kidnapping and ransoming western hostages taken at sea.


BRAZIL:  Bankrupt businessman Eike Batista returned to Brazil from the USA to face accusations that he paid a $16.5 million bribe to the former Rio de Janeiro governor Sergio Cabral.   Six years ago Mr Batista was the richest man in Brazil and the seventh richest in the world; his business empire collapsed in 2012 with the global commodities crash.  He and Mr Cabral are now in detention as a result of the anti-corruption investigation Operation Car Wash.

CANADA:  A gunman murdered six people and seriously wounded five others in an attack on a mosque in Quebec during evening prayers.  A 27 year old student has been arrested.

CHILE:  Forest fires have destroyed hundreds of houses and could devastate the country’s vineyards.  Ten people have been killed.

MEXICO:  President Nieto cancelled a meeting with President Trump following Trump’s executive orders to build a Wall and threats to impose tariffs on imports from Mexico.

USA:  President Trump signed a number of executive orders, to build a wall along the Mexican, to slash funding to some UN agencies, to create safe zones in Syria, to ban immigration of Syrian refugees, to suspend the refugee program for 120 days, and to stop entry of citizens from seven ‘countries of concern’ (Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen) for 90 days while anti-terrorist security procedures are reviewed.

Theresa May, the prime minister of the UK, visited Trump in the White House.

See comments Leading Trumps and Donald and Theresa’s Love-In.

President Trump nominated Neil Gorsuch, a conservative judge, for the vacant Supreme Court seat.

President Trump spoke to President Putin on the telephone.

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