Syrians gather at a site of car bomb in the northwestern Syrian city of Idlib on August 2, 2018. Idlib is the last of four "de-escalation" zones agreed by world powers in 2017 where the rebels still have a major presence. Strategically important Idlib province shares a border with rebel-backer Turkey and is adjacent to Latakia, a regime stronghold on the Mediterranean. / AFP PHOTO / OMAR HAJ KADOUR

Sept 10: Syria’s new offensive, Chinese mega loans, and Trump’s White House woes

North America

  • The first confirmation hearing for Trump’s supreme court judge nominee Brett Kavanaugh was met with heavy protests by public and lawmakers alike. A total of 61 people were removed and arrested. If successful, Kavanaugh’s nomination will lead to a Republican majority in the supreme court, and critics fear that Trump could be pardoned from criminal proceedings.
  • An anonymous op-ed – claimed to be written by a key White House staffer – has appeared in the New York Times. The article alludes to a mutiny within the White House and claims that key members of the President’s staff are actively engaged in subverting Trump’s presidency.
  • US wage growth hits nine-year high. While employment rates and job creation have stabilised since the global recession of 2008/09, wage growth has remained stubbornly stagnate. The positive news is likely to prompt an increase in US interest rates, with the Federal Reserve having done so twice earlier this year.
  • Former Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos has been sentenced to 14 days imprisonment for lying to FBI in Russia investigations.

South America

  • Venezuelan vice president Delcy Rodríguez has claimed that the country’s migration figures are normal, saying that figures had been inflated by “enemy countries” trying to justify a military intervention. Venezuela has seen mass migration in recent years, following steep inflation and economic woes.
  • Eleven South American countries have relaxed passport rules to allow for the passage of Venezuelan migrants whose passports have expired.
  • Half of Argentina’s ministries are set to be abolished, as president Macri announced plans to curb spending in light of the country’s economic woes.
  • Brazil presidential front runner Jair Bolsonaro was reported to have lost 40% of his blood after being stabbed at a rally last week. The far-right candidate, nicknamed the ‘Brazilian Trump’, has gained popularity amongst evangelical Christians for his anti-abortion and pro-gun views.


  • RCEP hopefully concluded in November at ASEAN summit, says Singapore’s trade minister Chan Chun Sing after last week’s Asean Economic Ministers’ Meeting.
  • India legalises gay sex after landmark ruling saw the abolishment of colonial law 377A.


  • UK former foreign secretary Boris Johnson has attacked Theresa May’s Brexit plan, saying she had “wrapped a suicide vest” around the British constitution and “handed the detonator” to Brussels. Tories have been quick to criticise Johnson’s comments as harmful to the nation.
  • Fresh protests erupted across Russia on Sunday over pension reforms, despite Putin making concessions just days earlier in the wake of falling popularity. The reforms will see the retirement age for men increased from 60 to 65 and from 55 to 60 for women. Putin softened the initial plan to raise women’s retirement age to 63.

Middle East

  • US and Turkey issue warnings against Idlib offensive in Syria, but Iran and Russia rejected a truce deal in a meeting on Friday, There are fears that an all-out offensive could include use of chemical weapons and trigger another refugee crisis, with experts estimating that a further 800,000 people could be displaced. Activists reported on Saturday that the area witnessed the “fiercest air raid in weeks”, with four civilians among the casualties. The northern province remains the final stronghold for rebels and jihadists in Syria, and is one of Bashar al-Assad’s final hurdles to ending the civil war that has plagued the country since the Arab Spring of 2011.
  • Iraq government buildings torched in new unrest. Protesters have attacked government and other key buildings in the southern Iraqi city of Basra as thousands again took to the streets, angry over corruption and the lack of services.
  • Egypt has delivered verdicts for more than 700 people over a pro-Muslim Brotherhood sit-in after President Mohammed Morsi was ousted in 2013. The court confirmed that 75 people were handed death sentences, while another 47 were given life sentences.
Syrians chant slogans and wave flags of the opposition and of Turkey as they protest against the regime and its ally Russia, in the rebel-held town of Atareb in the western countryside of Aleppo province in northern Syria, on August 31, 2018. (Photo by: Aaref Watad)


  • Chinese president Xi Jinping announced at the opening of the China-Africa summit a $60bn no-string-attached funding for Africa. Critics have warned that Africa is facing a mounting debt problem with China, which African leaders deny.
  • President Xi also denounced claims that funding has been channeled into vanity projects. He insisted that money has been spent on much needed infrastructure in Africa.
  • South Africa’s economy has fallen into recession for the first time since 2009 following consecutive quarters of negative GDP growth. Unemployment rate is also at a high of 30%.
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