- While there were fewer attacks, the terrorism landscape had grown more complex in 2017, according to an annual US report on terrorism. There were 8,584 terrorist attacks around the world in 2017, a 23 per cent decline from 2016. That number represented a 27 percent drop from the previous year, the report said. Ambassador Nathan Sales, the State Department’s coordinator for counterterrorism said much of the reason for the decline was the improved security situation in Iraq. Despite so, terror groups like ISIS have shifted themselves to a more dispersed model by encouraging attack sympathisers around the world. Iran continues to be the leading state sponsor of terrorism.
- US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is ready to negotiate with North Korea immediately to transform US-DPRK relations and achieve denuclearisation of the country by January 2021. This was announced after North Korea promised at the inter-Korea summit last week to shut down their missile-engine testing facility and launchpad at Tongchang-ri. It also said it was willing to permanently close down the Yongbyon nuclear site – where the country produced plutonium used in its first atomic weapons test – if the US took reciprocal action. Pompeo has invited his North Korean counterpart to meet in New York this week on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly. North Korean representatives have also been invited to meet the US Special Representative for North Korea, Stephen Biegun, in Vienna, Austria at the earliest opportunity.
- University professor Dr Christine Blasey Ford has agreed to testify this week against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh for a sexual assault that happened when they were teenagers. A “tentative” deal has been reached for Thursday. Judge Kavanaugh has repeatedly denied the allegations.
- Colombian cocaine production has hit record levels in 2017, revealed the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC)’s Coca Cultivation Survey Report for Colombia. UNODC says production rose about 31 per cent year on year to some 1,400 tonnes, cultivated on 171,000 hectares. It warned production could harm recent peace-building efforts. Being the world’s largest producer of cocaine, much of it ends up in the US, which is the world’s largest consumer. The potential production of cocaine has a value of $2.7bn the local market.
- Cuba is going through a “massive thought evolution”. Once considered to be among the most prejudicial and homophobic countries in the world, the recently sworn-in president Miguel Díaz-Canel said in an interview with Telesur that he backs same-sex marriage and that any kind of discrimination should be eliminated. Cuba is currently in the midst of updating its constitution which includes the acknowledgment of same-sex marriage. It will replace the 1976 national charter once a popular consultation is concluded. A national referendum is expected to take place in February 2019.
- Millions of women in Brazil have declared an online war against presidential election candidate Jair Bolsonaro of the Social Liberal Party. Bolsonaro, who is currently recovering in the hospital after being stabbed during a political rally, is known for making offensive, off-the-cuff remarks about women, black people and the LGBTQI community. He has since risen to 28 per cent in polls after the attack, leading all competitors in the first round of the presidential election scheduled for Oct 7. But several female personalities have taken it to their social media accounts, posting the hashtag #EleNao (#NotHim) to counter the rise. The tag had been mentioned nearly 200,000 times on Instagram alone by Thursday morning. Celebrities like Dua Lipa and Imagine Dragons frontman Dan Reynolds have also joined the campaign. Another Facebook page “Women With Bolsonaro (Official)” was set-up to counter the efforts of #NotHim.
- In the latest development of the US-China trade war, China has cancelled its visit to the US for further talks on trade issues after President Trump slammed 10 per cent tariffs on almost half of its imports from China. China’s foreign ministry reiterated its view that trust and respect are key to resolving the trade war and hopes US will “correct its mistakes”.
- China is angered by the sanctions that US has imposed on its military for purchasing Russian jets and missiles. It has told the US to withdraw them or “bear the consequences”. The sanctions involve China’s Equipment Development Department (EDD), the military branch responsible for weapons and equipment, and its director, Li Shangfu, for engaging in “significant transactions” with Rosoboronexport, Russia’s main arms exporter. The Chinese government has not joined in the sanctions imposed on Moscow by the US and its Western allies since 2014.
- Several deals to reduce tensions and pave the way for peace were made during the latest inter-Korean summit which happened last week at Pyongyang between the two Koreas. The deals include the intention to put an end to the 1950-53 Korean War, make a joint bid to host the 2032 Olympic Games, agree on a process to completely denuclearise the Korean peninsula, open a permanent facility for family reunion meetings in the Mt Geumgang area.
- Former Malaysia prime minister Najib Razak was arrested by anti-corruption investigators as part of the investigation into the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) state investment fund and “the entry of 2.6 billion ringgit ($628m) into his personal account”. Since losing the general election in May, he has been under intense scrutiny and has been slapped with charges of money laundering, criminal breach of trust and abuse of power in relation to 1MDB. He has pleaded not guilty to all charges and has consistently denied wrongdoing.
- Malaysia has decided to lower its voting age from 21 to 18 and will work on amending the Federal Constitution soon. Eighteen is the legal age of adulthood under Malaysian law, and is considered an age to take full responsibility of one’s actions, such as being eligible for a driving test, marriage or to sign contracts. This would help add another 3.7 million registered voters, a 25 per cent increase from the elections in May.
- Pakistan is disappointed by India’s decision to cancel talks at this week’s United Nations General Assembly. Its prime minister, Imran Khan, has called the reversal “arrogant” and “negative”. India backed out from the talks, blaming “latest brutal killings of our security personnel by Pakistan-based entities and the recent release of a series of 20 postage stamps by Pakistan glorifying a terrorist and terrorism”.
- In the most recent update on Brexit, UK foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt has told the European Union (EU) not to mistake British politeness for weakness after negotiations reached a dead end. Prime minister Theresa May failed to sell her proposal directly to EU leaders at a summit in Salzburg, Austria last week. European Council President Donald Tusk said a “compromise” was possible but the UK proposals had to be “reworked” as “the suggested framework for economic co-operation will not work, not least because it is undermining the single market”. The UK is due to leave the EU on 29 March 2019 and the two sides are trying to reach a deal by November so it can be ratified in time.
- A gun attack on a military parade in Iran has killed at least 25 and injured 60. The incident happened at Ahvaz, a province which is home to most of the country’s Arab minority. According to the Islamic Republic News Agency, the death toll is expected to rise with many wounded in critical condition. Anti-government Arab group, Ahvaz National Resistance and the Islamic State have both claimed the attack. Iran blames “terrorists paid by a foreign regime”, adding that it “holds regional terror sponsors and their US masters accountable”.
- Kurdish-led forces in north-eastern Syria wants captured foreign Islamic State militants to be taken back by their home countries. The Syrian Democratic Forces, which is backed by a US-led coalition, says that itt will not put them on trial themselves and lacks the resources to hold them captive indefinitely. They currently hold 500 jihadists, and hundreds of their wives and children.
- South Africa’s Democratic Alliance has launched their 2019 election campaign with a focus on corruption, crime, jobs, immigration and service delivery. “One South Africa for all” was announced as the campaign slogan. The party hopes to bring back Nelson Mandela’s vision for different South Africans to co-exist and thrive as one nation.
- South Africa’s minister of environmental affairs Edna Molewa has died. She was 61 years old. A period of mourning has been declared with immediate effect. Molewa was described as “one of the most hard-working ministers in South Africa’s democratic dispensation” and “the country is poorer without her” after news of her passing broke. She was also the first female premier of the North West provincial government, a post which she held from 2004 – 2009.
- A cholera outbreak in north-eastern Nigeria has claimed nearly 100 lives over the past two weeks, the United Nations said. More than 3,000 cholera cases have been recorded in the states of Yobe and Borno in a region that is also grappling with a Boko Haram insurgency, it added.
- Liberian ministers have denied a claim that tens of millions of dollars have disappeared from state coffers after news broke last week that an official inquiry had been launched in August into the whereabouts of some $97m. While the authorities have imposed travel bans on various people, press statements released by them clarified that the inquiry was whether sums of money brought into the country had been properly declared, not whether it had disappeared.
- The International Committee of the Red Cross has called the deteriorating situation in Libya as desperate. In a series of tweets, it listed out factors such as “constant fighting, people forced from their homes, and the destruction of basic infrastructure” which have “made life impossible in Libya”. Similarly, the UN Support Mission in Libya on Thursday issued an appeal on Twitter urging the armed groups to abide by the ceasefire.