Wed. Sep 18th, 2019

Supreme Court nomiinee Brett Kavanaugh at his Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing in Washington on Sept. 4, 2018. MUST CREDIT: Bloomberg photo by Andrew Harrer.

Oct 8: Embattled Kavanaugh scores top job, anti-rape campaigners win Nobel Peace Prize, and “Brazillian Trump” inches closer to presidency

North America

  • The US Senate has ended weeks of bitter rivalry by voting in Trump’s Supreme Court pick Brett Kavanaugh 50-48. Earlier in the week, Republicans had declared that the FBI investigation yielded no incriminating evidence against Kavanaugh. The result is a huge boost for Republicans ahead of the midterm elections next month.  
  • Major donors have pledged $1 million to register and educate voters to oust Maine Senator Susan Collins (R) in 2020 after she voted yes to Kavanaugh on Saturday. The senator has come under heavy fire after initially being seen as a possible swing vote.
  • Protestors swarmed Washington and banged the doors of the Supreme Court as new nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh was about to sworn in. President Trump had alleged earlier that the protestors were paid by philanthropist and George Soros.
  • US jobless rate hits 49-year low of 3.7%. From the low point in the aftermath of the financial crisis, the number with jobs has increased by almost twenty million. Economists predict that the US Federal Reserve will continue to raise interest rates well into 2019, as better-paid US workers spend more and increase inflationary pressures.
  • According to a new Pentagon-led report, China represents a “significant and growing risk” to the supply of materials vital to the United States military. China was given heavy emphasis in the report and was singled out for dominating the global supply of rare earth minerals critical in US military applications.

South America

  • Brazilians have begun voting in a highly polarised presidential election campaign. Opinion polls have placed far-right candidate and frontrunner Jair Bolsonaro as firm favourite, though the estimated 38% falls short of the 50% needed to win. He will likely face a run-off against moderate Fernando Haddad in three weeks time.
  • A court in Peru has reversed a pardon granted to the country’s ex-president, Alberto Fujimori. The 80-year-old was sentenced to 25 years in 2009, having been convicted of ordering the killings of 25 people by a government-backed death squad during Peru’s internal conflict.
  • The International Court of Justice (ICJ) has ruled against Bolivia in its dispute with neighbouring Chile over access to the Pacific Ocean. The feud dates back to the late 19th Century. The ruling comes after five years of deliberations and is final and binding.

Asia

  • Interpol president Meng Hongwei has gone missing after returning to China on 25 September. The agency has appealed to Chinese authorities to clarify the status of Meng, who is reported to have been “taken away” for questioning.
  • Hong Kong has refused to renew a work visa for the Asia news editor of the Financial Times Victor Mallet, sparking concerns from the UK government. Mallet upset authorities in August when he hosted a separatist speaker at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club.
  • Observers have warned that North Korea’s push for an end of war declaration could be a ploy to drive a wedge between US-South Korea relations. Canadian Lieutenant-General Wayne Eyre has said that an end of war statement could prove a “slippery slope” for the presence of the 28,500 US troops in the South.

Europe

  • Latvia: A pro-Russia party looks to have won the most votes in Latvia’s general elections on Saturday. Exit polls put the Harmony Party on 19.4% of the votes, paving the way for it to form a coalition government.
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin branded former double agent Sergei Skripal a “traitor” and a “scumbag”, saying Moscow knew he had cooperated with foreign intelligence after his release in a spy swap. However, he again denied Russian involvement in Skripal’s poisoning.
  • Britain has accused Russian military intelligence GRU of directing a host of cyber attacks aimed at undermining Western democracies. In a statement by British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, Britain alleges that the GRU was behind the BadRabbit and World Anti-Doping Agency attacks of 2017, the hack of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) in 2016 and the theft of emails from a UK-based TV station in 2015.
  • A year after a banned referendum on secession from Spain, 180,000 Catalan protesters piled pressure on the region’s separatist government during an anniversary marked by road and rail blockades and late-night clashes with police. Supporters of Catalonia’s independence have been frustrated by the government’s reluctance to stand up against Madrid.
  • Majority of Macedonian voters have backed the country’s name change to North Macedonia in a low turnout referendum last week. The change ends a decades-long spat with Greece and paves the way to NATO and EU membership.
  • Bosnians have begun voting following an election campaign that observers say remained entrenched along ethnic lines. A total of five presidents and 14 prime ministers must be elected in the country’s complex system of government, which was instituted in 1995 after the civil war.

Middle East

  • Turkish prosecutors have opened an investigation into the disappearance of missing Saudi journalist and government critic Jamal Khashoggi. Turkish sources quoted by Reuters and the Washington Post say they believe he has been killed inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.
  • An Iraqi Yazidi who was tortured and raped by Islamic State militants, Nadia Marud, has won the Nobel Peace Prize alongside Congolese doctor Denis Mukwege. She regularly campaigned against sexual violence and later became the face of a campaign to free the Yazidi people.
  • Saudi businesswoman Lubna Al Olayan has become the first woman in the conservative kingdom to be appointed to head a bank. She is seen as a trailblazer for Saudi women and will chair a new bank being formed out of a merger between the Saudi British Bank (SABB) and Alawwal Bank.

Africa

  • Former commander and founder of militant Islamist group al-Shabab Mukhtar Robow, has been barred from running for public office in Somalia. He is the highest ranking al-Shabab militant to defect from the group, despite being one of its founders.
  • Cameroon’s longtime leader and “absentee president” Paul Biya is seeking a seventh term in office. Despite being Africa’s second longest serving leader, the 85-year-old is slowly losing support in the wake of a separatist uprising in the country’s two Anglophone regions.
  • The governing EPRDF coalition in Ethiopia has voted to extend the chairmanship of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, cementing his authority as leader of the country. He won 176 votes out of 177. Since coming into power in April, Abiy has introduced sweeping changes, including making peace with Ethiopia’s former enemy Eritrea.
  • Mozambican authorities say 90 people have died in all since Islamist militant group al-Shabab began attacks last year in the north of the northern province of Cabo Delgado. The group has no known links to the Somali jihadist group of the same name.
  • Congolese doctor Denis Mukwege became the 11th African to win the Nobel Peace Prize last week. Dr Mukwege has been recognised for the work that he has done with victims of sexual violence and has become a leading expert on treating the injuries that the violence causes.
  • Zambia has returned $3.5m (£2.7m) donated by the UK government after concerns were raised about how the money had been used. Last month, the UK froze aid funding to Zambia, after its government admitted that money intended for poor families in the social cash transfer programme had gone missing.

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