19 October 2017
Week in Brief: International
AUSTRIA: In last weekend’s elections, the Conservative Peoples’ Party (OVP) came first with 31.7%, the Social Democrats (SPO) second with 27.4%, and the far-right Freedom Party (FPO) third with 26.5%. (Other parties: NEOS 5%, PILZ 4.1%, Green 3.3%, others 2%)….
Sebastian Kurtz, the leader of the OVP, is expected to become Chancellor (and, at 31, the youngest European leader). He is more likely to seek a coalition with the FPO (some of whose anti-migrant rhetoric he borrowed during the campaign) than with former coalition partners the SPO, who were accused of running a smear campaign against him.
IRELAND: Three people died when Storm Ophelia hit Ireland, knocking out power, bringing trees down, closing schools and offices and causing flights to be cancelled.
MALTA: Daphne Caruana Galizia, an investigative journalist and anti-corruption activist, was killed by a car bomb in Valetta.
SPAIN: The Catalan parliament did not respond to the Spanish government’s demand that it clarify whether or not it has declared independence. The government has now given it until today (Thursday 19 October) to renounce independence, threatening to take direct rule if it does not.
The president of the Catalan National Assembly and the leader of a cultural association have been detained, for allegedly helping to organise violent demonstrations. Hundreds of thousands of protesters took part in candle-lit rallies in Barcelona, Girona, Reus and other Catalan cities to demonstrate against their detention.
Volkswagon announced that it is to move its legal headquarters from Barcelona to Madrid. Cava-maker Codorniu is to move to La Rioja.
27 people have died in wildfires sweeping northwest Spain (and Portugal). The authorities suspect arson.
Middle East and Africa
AFGHANISTAN: Pakistani forces, acting on US intelligence, freed an American-Canadian couple and their three children being held hostage by Islamist militants. They were seized by the Haqqani network five years ago; their children had all been born in captivity.
The Times reported that Russia is funding the Taliban with donations of oil shipments. Dozens of tankers are sent to Afghanistan each month; the oil is sold and the Taliban buy weapons etc with the proceeds (estimated to be $2.5 million per month). It is suspected that this is part of Russia’s fight against Isis (the Taliban and Isis are competitors) and Russia’s rivalry with Nato and the West.
At least 69 people were killed in one day by Taliban militants who attacked government centres across the country with guns and bombs.
EGYPT: Rival Palestinian factions Hamas and Fatah signed a reconciliation deal. In 2007, Hamas militants seized Gaza from Fatah (the Palestinian Authority based in the West Bank); Hamas now agrees to share power in Gaza with Fatah, with elections for a united Palestinian government next year.
IRAQ: Iraqi forces plus Shia militias seized the city and region of Kirkuk claimed by the newly declared Kurdish state. Kurdish Peshmerga forces withdrew, but some Kurdish civilian volunteers defended the city and sustained casualties. Other Kurdish civilians fled north. The Arab and Turkman populations welcomed the Iraqi troops.
IRAN: It was revealed that Iran launched a cyber attack against the UK parliament in June. 900 email accounts were attacked by hackers in 12 hours. 90 accounts were compromised.
KENYA: Opposition demonstrators have been killed and wounded by police opening fire on rallies held after the interior ministry banned demonstrations. A re-run of the recent election might go ahead on October 26 in spite of opposition leader Raila Odinga withdrawing because he says faults in the voting system have still not been corrected.
SOMALIA: More than 300 people were killed by a lorry bomb in Mogadishu. The government have blamed al Shabaab.
SYRIA: The Western-backed SDF (Kurdish troops, former rebel groups, and local Arab tribes) have declared victory in Raqqa, where they have been fighting to drive Isis out for the last four months. The Isis leadership fled Raqqa, their capital, some months ago, and are trying to continue to fight in the mid-Euphrates valley.
TURKEY: A German-Turkish translator and reporter, who had worked for a left wing news agency before it was shut down last year, has been arrested and charged with being a member of the MLKP communist party because she attended the funerals of MLKP members. She is being detained in prison with her three-year old son.
Far East, Asia and Pacific
BURMA: European foreign ministers banned visits by Burmese military commanders, as more evidence of widespread and ongoing atrocities against the Rohingyas emerged.0
CHINA: The 19th Communist Party Congress begins this week (it takes place every five years): delegates will meet to review the work of leadership and to elect the central committee (the seven-man politburo) which picks the general secretary. President Xi is almost certain to continue with a second five-year term.
Wu Aiying, the justice minister for 12 years until last Feb, was expelled from the party before the congress.
INDIA: The Supreme Court ruled that sex with a minor amounts to rape, even within marriage. Activists hope that this landmark case will help in their campaign against child brides and child abuse. Although child marriage is illegal, Unicef recently reported that 47% of Indian girls are married before 18 (the age of consent) and nearly 20% are married before 15.
KOREA, NORTH: The EU is about to agree new sanctions against Pyongyang, including travel bans and limits on assets.
PHILIPINNES: Isnilon Hapilon, the leader of Isis in southest Asia, has been killed during the ongoing battle for .Marawi
VIETNAM: 68 people have died and 34 are missing, as tropical storm Khanun brought heavy rain and landslides and caused widespread damage to livestock and infrastrucure.
USA: 10,000 firefighters continue to tackle the Californian wildfires. The death toll is now 40. Hundreds of people are missing, 80,000 have been evacuated, and a quarter of a million acres of land have been incinerated.
The USA is to withdraw from Unesco at the end of the year, accusing it of an “anti-Israel bias”. Israel is also to leave.
President Trump did not withdraw the US from the nuclear deal signed with Iran, but left the matter in the hands of Congress. The deal needs certifying every 90 days.
It is claimed that former staff at the DEA (Drug Enforcement Agency) are blaming Congress for not stopping big drugs companies from flooding the market with the cheap and addictive pain killers which have caused the opioid abuse epidemic.
President Trump’s third attempt to ban citizens from countries regarded as a terror risk (this time including Iran, Libya, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Chad and North Korea) were blocked by a judge in Hawaii who ruled that it contradicted “the founding principles of this nation”.
VENEZUELA: In the state elections, the ruling socialist party won the governership in 17 states (including Miranda, a bastion of the opposition where the opposition governor Henrique Capriles was barred from standing for re-election); the opposition won only 5. At least 200 polling stations were moved only hours before voting, and many ballot papers were confusing (including the names of candidates who weren’t standing). The opposition and the US condemned the lack of free and fair elections.
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