Issue 123:2017 10 05:Week in Brief International

05 October 2017

Week in Brief: International

UN Flag to denote International news Week In Brief International


AUSTRIA: A ban on wearing the full-face veil in public has come into force.  However, French businessman Rachid Nekkaz has offered to pay any fine (€150) imposed.

FRANCE: A 29 year old illegal immigrant from Tunisia stabbed two girls to death at a railway station in Marseilles.  He had a criminal past and was shot dead by soldiers.  His victims were students aged 20 and 21.

RUSSIA: Opposition leader Alexei Navalny was detained by police while on his way to address an election campaign rally in Nizhny Novgorod. The police broke up the rally and arrested several people.  Mr Navalny and his campaign chief were both jailed for 20 days because the authorities hadn’t sanctioned the rally.

A panel of expert academics, the VAK (Russian Higher Attestation Committee), has recommended that culture minister Vladimir Medinsky should be stripped of his PhD because it has found many mistakes in his dissertation.

SPAIN: The Catalan authorities announced that 2 million people (i.e. a 42% turnout, out of 5.3 million potential voters) voted in the independence referendum, and 90% of them voted for independence.

In advance of the vote, the Madrid authorities tried to close down websites supporting and organising the referendum (so organisers put them beyond the reach of the law by registering them in Russia and central asian countries).  On election day, there was violence as state police tried to close down voting venues, stop people from voting and confiscate ballot boxes.  890 people were injured by police in full riot gear wielding batons and firing rubber bullets.  Prime minister Mariano Rajoy was criticised for authorising such heavy-handed tactics, and the election was followed by a general strike in Catalonia to protest against the police violence.  King Felipe addressed the nation in a live tv broadcast, in support of democracy and the rule of law, i.e. Madrid’s position.  He was criticised for not condemning the police violence, not expressing sympathy for the victims and not calling for dialogue and negotiation.

UKRAINE: A massive explosion at an ammunition depot 170 miles west of Kiev injured two people and resulted in the evacuation of 30,000 people.  Sabotage is suspected.

Middle East and Africa

EGYPT: Police arrested at least 33 people in what appears to be a crackdown on gay and transgender communities.

IRAQ: The referendum in the Kurdistan Autonomous Region resulted in a 93% vote for independence.  Turnout was 72%.  The Baghdad government said the result should be annulled and threatened to close Kurdish airspace.

LIBYA: Several Isis fighters were killed by a US airstrike 100 miles south of Sirte.

General Khalifa Haftar (commander of the Tubruq-based Libyan National Army) offered to halt the flow of migrants through his territory if European countries gave him the materiel (drones, helicopters, vehicles, night vision etc) to do the job.  This would mean ending the UN’s Libyan arms embargo.

MADAGASCAR: An outbreak of plague has killed 21 people in the last month.  114 people have been infected.

SYRIA: Isis released a video of their leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, claiming that he is still alive despite the claims by Russia and the Assad regime that he was killed in an airstrike near Raqqa last May. Isis counter-attacked against regime forces in centrl Syria and re-captured the town of Qaryatain.

TURKEY: President Putin met with President Erdogan to discuss Syria (they are guarantors of the Astan peace process which has established de-escalation zones), arms deals and the recent vote for independence in Iraqi Kurdistan.

YEMEN: The UN agreed to set up a panel to investigate allegations of war crimes.

Far East, Asia and Pacific

AFGHANISTAN: The Taliban launched a rocket attack on Kabul international airport soon after US defence secretary James Mattis landed.  James Mattis and Nato secretary general Jens Stoltenberg had talks with President Ghani.

CHINA: Politburo member Sun Zhengcai was expelled from the Communist party for ‘Serious discipline violations’.  He was dismissed as party chief in the city of Chongquing last July.  He had been seen as a potential President.

INDIA: At least 22 people died and many were injured when a pedestrian bridge collapsed at a railway station in Mumbai.

JAPAN: Seiji Maehara, the leader of the opposition Democratic Party, announced that he will not be putting any candidates forward in the snap election called by prime minister Shinzo Abe for October 22; he has told his MPs to stand instead for the new Party of Hope, founded last week by Yuriko Koike, governor of Tokyo.  Ms Koike has been a journalist, MP and cabinet minister in Shinzo Abe’s Liberal Democrat party.  She said that she wants to remain governor of Tokyo and will not stand for election herself.

VANUATU: The island of Ambae’s population of 11,000 is being evacuated to nearby islands, as the volcano Manaro Voui begins to erupt.


CUBA: The US pulled more than half of its diplomatic staff from Cuba and advised its citizens not to visit the island, following mysterious cases of deafness, brain damage etc amongst embassy staff.  The US also expelled 15 Cuban diplomats from the States.

USA: A gunman shooting from a Las Vegas hotel window killed 59 people and wounded at least 520 when he opened fire on a crowd at an open-air country music concert.  The gunman, a 64 year old retired accountant, then shot himself dead.

Thousands of Russian-linked Twitter accounts and adverts on Facebook sought to aggravate internal conflicts about race, gender and politics in order to divide and destabilise the nation during last year’s presidential election, according to social media investigators.

The Justice department reported that the US murder rate has increased by more than 20% since 2014.  Much of the dramatic rise concentrated in a small number of places (Chicago, St Louis and Baltimore); the rate fell in many other places.

Health secretary Tom Price resigned over allegations that he spent $1 million of public funds to travel by chartered plane.


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