Week #19 (14-20/10/2019)
AFRICA & THE MIDDLE EAST
Reported in BBC (18/10), after reaching a deal with the U.S. in Ankara, Turkey has agreed to a ceasefire and let Kurdish-led forces withdraw from what Turkey terms a “safe zone” on the border in northern Syria. The fighting will be paused for five days and the U.S. will help facilitate the withdrawal, albeit it’s still unclear whether the Kurdish-led forces will fully comply. Commander Mazloum Kobani said the Kurdish-led troops would observe the agreement in the area between the border towns of Ras al-Ain and Tal Abyad, where the fighting mainly took place, but have not discussed the fate of other areas yet.
Continuous downpours in north-eastern Ghana, which have occurred for eight consecutive days (18/10), has caused at least 28 people killed and several others injured, more than 600 people displaced, 1,264 houses partially damaged, and 286 houses completely destroyed. More rains are predicted to befall across the country in the coming weeks with the possibility of more flooding.
Archaeologists have found 30 ancient wooden coffins near Luxor, Egypt. The coffins estimated to be about 3,000 years old were uncovered at the Asasif cemetery, being well-preserved with colorful paintings and full inscriptions. The Egyptian Antiquities Minister Khaled El-Enany said on Saturday (19/10) that the find is “the first large human coffin cache ever discovered since the end of the 19th century”.
Hundreds of thousands people, at least one as young as eight years old, flooded (20/10) the streets in Beirut, Lebanon, calling for the resignation of the 30-member Cabinet after the government proposed new taxes. The protests spread beyond Beirut and were joined by people across religions and sectarians, making them Lebanon’s largest protests in five years. Politicians are now discussing an economic rescue plan in an effort to calm the public.
European Union (E.U.) has lifted ban (14/10) on Turkmenistan Airlines to fly over its territory, which it imposed since February 2019. Chairperson of Turkmenistan Airlines Dovran Saburov said the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) experts have given a good evaluation of their efforts to ensure safety of flights and the infrastructure and facilities of the airports, including the required streamlining of the operations of border guard, customs, and migration services of Ashgabat airport.
The Chinese movie Abominable has been criticized by several Southeast Asian countries, which are also claimants in the South China Sea, for illustrating China’s nine-dash line in one of its scenes. Vietnam and the Philippines have pulled the movie from cinemas on Monday (14/10) and Tuesday (15/10) respectively. Meanwhile, Malaysia on Thursday has allowed (17/10) the movie to be screened in cinemas without the scene depicting the map.
Despite pursuing non-militarization, Saifuddin Abdullah, Malaysia’s minister of foreign affairs, said on Thursday (17/10) that Malaysia needs to upgrade its navy to deal with the possibility of armed conflict in the South China Sea. The country’s Defense White Paper is set to be tabled in early December and expected to outline a 10-year plan for the armed forces.
Convener of the Civil Human Rights Front (CHRF) Jimmy Sham was attacked (16/10) on his way to the CHRF meeting and left bleeding on the street. This is the second assault inflicting the pro-democracy activist in the past two months. The perpetrators were previously reported to be of South Asian descent, but CHRF representatives said Sham could not identify the men or their ethnicity. Hong Kong’s No. 2 official have condemned the attack on Thursday (17/10), calling it as “totally unacceptable”. Some argued that the attack is an attempt to pit one ethnic group against another, to fuel distrust and further divisions in the pro-democracy political movements.
Pakistan, Indian cross-border exchange of fire has killed at least six civilians and three soldiers (19/10) in one of the deadliest days since India revoked Indian-administered Kashmir’s special status. Both countries have conveyed contrasting claims regarding the clash, with each arguing that their soldiers did not initiate the attack.
AUSTRALIA & OCEANIA
Reporting from Australia, the Northern Territory Government introduced (16/10) a new and controversial Burial and Cremation Bill that could criminalise Aboriginal communities. Yolngu people regard funerals as life journey and believe that the body should be returned to their ancestral land. Because many Yolngu people are no longer able to access their traditional land, they often bury their deceased relatives close to home. Under the new proposed bill, failure to bury someone inside “the confines of cemeteries” and with bureaucratic approval will result in $31,000 fines or two years imprisonment time. The government has faced many criticisms and pleas for “intercultural understanding” after the bill was introduced.
Filmmaker Rory McLeod and anthropologist Peter Yates discovered (16/10) thousands of dead invasive European carp and a small number of native Murray cod in an apparent mass fish kill at Lake Pamamaroo in far western New South Wales (NSW). Before the discovery, the Minister for Water Resources David Littleproud has warned, “Make no mistake, we are likely to see fish deaths this summer. We’re facing another hot summer with very little water flowing through our rivers. Fish deaths are common during summer but what we saw last year were a major wake-up call about the impact of the drought on our rivers.”
Despite being legalized by the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) law, Attorney General Christian Porter insisted (16/10) that the possession of cannabis is still illegal under the federal law. The Health Minister Greg Hunt also accused the ACT of ignoring the “health consequences” of cannabis. Porter received the final copy of the ACT law on Monday and stated that he will consider the issue “on its merits”.
Euro 2020 qualifier match between England and Bulgaria in the latter’s capital, Sofia, was halted twice and almost being abandoned (14/10) after the English black players suffered racist abuses from the home fans. England’s manager Gareth Southgate alerted the referee, Ivan Bebek, and the match was halted in the 27th minute. After the game resumed, the racist chants continued. A warning for the home fans to cease or face the match being abandoned was read on the speaker to no avail, prompting the game to be halted again before half-time. England was given a chance to walk off during half-time but decided to continue playing, and eventually won the match 6-0. Many, including Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and Prime Minister Boris Johnson (15/10), not only condemned the Bulgarian fans’ treatment to the black English players, but also criticised and demanded the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) to seriously tackle the racism issues. On the other hand, the Bulgarians’ opinions are divided, with the country’s goalkeeper Plamen Iliev and coach Krasimir Balakov denied (16/10) the racist behaviours and called England players “overreacted”. Conversely, the Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov has urged the Bulgarian Football Union (BFU) President Borislav Mihaylov to resign over the incident.
Boris Johnson, the prime minister of the United Kingdom (U.K.), has made (15/10) a progress in achieving a Brexit deal after agreeing in principle of a customs border down the Irish Sea. The agreement, however, has to rule that “Northern Ireland will still legally be within the U.K.’s customs territory” to be approved by the parliament. Despite having making a progress, talks on technical issues will take around two months, prompting Berlin and Paris to doubt that a deal can be achieved this week. On the phone with Johnson, French President Emmanuel Macron brought up the possibility of Brexit extension beyond October 31 for the talks to become fruitful.
On Saturday (19/10), whilst hundreds of thousands people joined the People’s Vote march in London and called for a second referendum, the MPs adopted the Letwin amendment to hold off approval for Johnson’s new Brexit deal. The amendment was coined by Sir Oliver Letwin to make sure that the U.K. cannot leave the European Union (EU) on October 31 without a deal. Consequently, the Prime Minister was required to ask the EU for another extension. On Saturday night, Johnson sent three letters to the EU which contain: “one unsigned requesting a Brexit extension, a copy of the law requiring him to request the extension, and one arguing against an extension”. The European Council President Donald Tusk confirmed receipt of the letters and tweeted that he will discuss the request with other EU leaders.
Thousands of people clashed (16/10) with the police in Spain’s three Catalan cities—Barcelona, Girona, and Tarragona—following the sentencing of twelve Catalan separatists. Nine separatist leaders were accused of initiating the independence referendum in 2017, which was deemed illegal by the Spanish government, and sentenced to nine to 13 years of prison time. The other three were only found guilty of disobedience and fined. Following the escalating violence of Friday (18/10) that left at least 35 people injured and another 10 arrested, the Catalan President Quim Torra called for (19/10) dialogues with the Spanish government to find “democratic solution” whilst condemning the recent days’ violence.
Addressing the Bundestag, the Chancellor of Germany Angela Merkel said (17/10) that the departure of the U.K. from the EU would burden Berlin in terms of the Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF)—the EU’s long-term budget—because they “will have to chip in more”. For that reason, Merkel has asked for EU budget discount for Germany and “fair-burden sharing” between the block’s members.
The President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker condemned (18/10) the EU’s failure to open membership talks with North Macedonia and Albania after France’s Emmanuel Macron blocked the bid. Denmark and the Netherlands opposed opening talks with Albania, but not with North Macedonia as long as it passes “a law to safeguard the future of an independent public prosecutor”. Embarrassed, the President of the European Council Donald Tusk told journalists, “It is not a failure, it is a mistake. I feel really embarrassed. Both countries, they passed their exams; I can’t say this about our member states.” Responding to (19/10) the “historical mistake”, the Prime Minister of North Macedonia Zoran Zaev has called for snap elections, whereas his Albanian counterpart blamed “internal EU issues”.
Due to the raise of climate change awareness, the Green Party and the Green Liberal Party gained (20/10) more votes in Switzerland’s parliamentary elections. However, their gains was predicted to have little impact on the Swiss government as the right-leaning Swiss People’s Party (SVP) still holds the majority of voice in the house.
LATIN AMERICA & THE CARIBBEAN
A seven-story apartment building in Dionísio Torres, an upscale neighborhood in Fortaleza, Brazil collapsed on Tuesday (15/10), with death toll reached nine on Saturday (19/10). The tower, built in 1995, was illegal according to the city council. Building collapses in Brazil are not so uncommon and tend to happen in poorer neighborhoods where illegal construction is rampant.
Brazil and Venezuela, the latter which is criticized for its poor human rights record, have won the two Latin American seats(17/10) on the United Nations Human Rights Council, collecting 153 and 105 votes respectively. Costa Rica, which announced its candidacy this month in a bid to keep Venezuela from securing a third-year term, came last with 96 votes.
In Mexico, notorious drugs lord El Chapo’s two sons had been arrested by police, but the eldest son Ivan Archivaldo Guzman escaped and orchestrated a violence on Thursday (17/10) that forced police to release his brother Ovidio Guzman Lopez. Brutal gunfight between Ivan’s henchmen and Mexican authorities has turned the streets of Culiacán into an apparent warzone, leading to eight people dying and 20 wounded. On Friday (18/10), Mexican authorities admitted they released Ovidio because eight of their own members were held hostage and the troops were surrounded by enemies.
THE UNITED STATES (U.S.) & CANADA
Former American President Barack Obama endorsed (16/10) Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in his tweet. Obama urged Canadians to re-elect Trudeau because he is a “hard-working, effective leader who takes on big issues like climate change”. Once a progressive hero, Trudeau has struggled in recent months following an ethic scandal and political fumbles, making his race to win Canada’s Monday election even harder. Conservative’s Andrew Scheer also struggles (20/10) to win over the Canadians’ support, leaving third parties such as left-leaning New Democratic Party and its leader Jagmeet Singh gain more support, particularly from the millennial voters.
Donald Trump, the United States’(U.S.) president, has again denied the accusation that he tried to make personal financial gain from his time in office after the White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney announced (17/10) that the Trump National Doral Miami golf resort would be the “best place” for the G7 Summit. Doral itself was reportedly “facing declines in revenue”. But after facing backlash from his opponents and ethic campaigners, Trump finally reversed (20/10) his plan.
Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders declared, “I am back!” (20/10) in front of his supporters after undergoing an emergency heart surgery this month. Sanders has now been officially endorsed by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and reassured his supporters that he was “more than ready to assume the office of president of the United States”.