Wed. Sep 18th, 2019

Oct 15: Global markets slump, Brexit meets backbench resistance, and Anwar seals return

World

  • The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has issued a special report on the impact of global warming of 1.5C after three years of research. Their dramatic report on keeping that rise under 1.5 degrees C says the world is now completely off track, heading instead towards 3C.

North America

  • Three of the biggest US banks reported strong profits on Friday, helping to lift US share markets after several days of steep declines. The gains at JP Morgan Chase, Citigroup and Wells Fargo came despite concerns about rising interest rates and trade tariffs.
  • The IMF’s Financial Stability Report warns that “dangerous undercurrents” are a rising threat to the world economy. It added that although banks are far safer than they were in 2008 there are new risks, like trade tensions and a disorderly Brexit. Last Monday, it downgraded world growth forecasts for next year, blaming new trade barriers.
  • US President Donald Trump has renewed his attacks on the central bank, the Federal Reserve, calling it “out of control” and “far too stringent”. Trump’s comments follow several days of declines in US stock markets. A fall would be a concern to the president, who frequently cites stock market performance as a sign of his administration’s success.
  • The US justice department has announced charges of economic espionage against a suspected Chinese intelligence officer. Officials say Yanjun Xu tried to steal trade secrets from US aviation and aerospace companies on behalf of China.
  • Last Wednesday, US President Donald Trump demanded Saudi Arabia provide answers over the disappearance of journalist and US resident Jamal Khashoggi, whom Turkish officials suspect was murdered after entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. The Trump administration sharply upped the pressure, reversing an initially low key response after Washington Post contributor Khashoggi vanished on October 2.
  • US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley has announced her resignation – after nearly two years in the post. Mrs Haley did not give details about her move – or what she would do next. The The 46-year-old former South Carolina governor has been seen as an internationalist who has largely protected the UN from Trump’s anti-globalist agenda.

South America

  • Tension ahead of the Brazilian elections has been linked to a string of violent attacks, including one case being treated as political murder, according to local media. A woman also had a swastika carved into her flesh by supporters of far-right presidential candidate, Jair Bolsonaro. Bolsonaro has dismissed the violent attacks as isolated, while AFP has reported that supporters of Mr Haddad were particularly targeted.
  • Protesters in Venezuela have accused the government of murdering a jailed opposition lawmaker who the authorities say killed himself. Fernando Albán was detained over what officials say was a drone assassination attempt on President Nicolás Maduro.

Asia

  • Malaysian ex-deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim has won a parliamentary seat, sealing his return to front-line politics. The 71-year-old won a by-election in the town of Port Dickson on Saturday. Current Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad – who is 93 – has promised to hand over power to him in two years’ time.
  • South Korean President Moon Jae-in has said that it is only a matter of time before the US and North Korea declare an end to their state of war on the Korean peninsula. The war ended in 1953 with an armistice but a peace treaty was never signed. However, observers have warned that a peace treaty could be “slippery slope” for the presence of the 28,500 US troops in the South.
  • China’s western Xinjiang region has written “vocational training centres” for Muslim Uighurs into law amid growing international concern over large-scale disappearances there. Xinjiang says the centres will tackle extremism through “thought transformation”. Rights groups say detainees are made to swear loyalty to President Xi Jinping and criticise or renounce their faith.
  • China will cut the amount of cash banks must hold in reserve as part of efforts to support its economy, amid an escalating trade war with the US. The move will see 750bn yuan ($109bn; £83bn) in cash injected into the financial system. It is the fourth time the country’s central bank has cut its reserve requirement this year.
  • The detained Chinese head of Interpol, Meng Hongwei, is being investigated for alleged bribe-taking, Chinese authorities have announced. Meng is the latest high-profile target to be ensnared in China’s sweeping anti-corruption campaign.
  • Asian stocks slumped last week as concerns about higher US interest rates and a global trade war prompted investors to sell. Markets in Asia took their cue from US stocks, which suffered their sharpest one-day falls in months last Wednesday, prompting a huge sell off.

Europe

  • Former Brexit Secretary David Davis has called on Cabinet ministers to “exert their collective authority” and rebel against Theresa May’s proposed Brexit deal. The PM has suggested a temporary customs arrangement for the whole UK to remain in the customs union while the Irish border issue is resolved.
  • No 10 has said that the prime minister would “never agree” to a permanent customs union with the EU, amid concern from ministers about Brexit compromises. It is thought that Theresa May will agree to such a move, if a trade deal cannot be done in time, though Downing Street insists any post-Brexit customs union would be “time limited”.
  • Tens of thousands of people marched in Paris and other major cities across France on Saturday to call for greater action on climate change. The protests came after after an alarming United Nations report calling for urgent global action to avoid a climate catastrophe.
  • Italy’s interior ministry says all migrants in the southern town of Riace, famous for welcoming them, must be transferred away. The move comes days after the arrest of the town’s mayor, Domenico Lucano, over his alleged role organising “marriages of convenience” for immigration purposes. His arrest follows months of tougher migration enforcement from Italy’s populist government.
  • More than 100,000 people have been marching in the German capital Berlin to protest against xenophobia and the increasing influence of the far right. Rights groups organised the rally, as marchers held placards reading “Indivisible” and “United against racism”.
  • Turkish officials claim they have audio and video evidence that shows missing Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi was killed inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. Saudi Arabia has maintained the journalist left the building, with the minister saying the kingdom was keen to discover “the whole truth”.
  • Poland’s President Andrzej Duda has appointed 27 new Supreme Court judges, despite internal and European Union pressure not do so. Earlier this year the government lowered the retirement age of judges, forcing many to retire. Opponents say the move aims to appoint favourable replacements, undermining democracy and judicial independence.

Middle East

  • According to BBC, Britain and the US are considering boycotting a major international conference in Saudi Arabia after the disappearance of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. The investment conference, dubbed Davos in the Desert, will be held later this month and is hosted by the kingdom’s Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman to promote his reform agenda.
  • Countries that have been widely criticised for severe human rights abuses are among 18 newly elected members of the UN Human Rights Council. Campaigners had urged UN member states to oppose the candidacy of the Philippines and Eritrea and said the choice of Bahrain and Cameroon raised “significant concerns”.

Africa

  • Seven senior Kenyan officials will be charged over alleged corruption surrounding the 2016 Olympic Games, the country’s chief prosecutor said. Those accused include ex-Sports Minister Hassan Wario and former Olympic Committee head Kipchoge Keino, a two-time Olympic gold medallist. More than 55m shillings ($545,542; £414,607) meant for the athletes was allegedly siphoned off.
  • More than 3,000 people have so far signed an online petition to stop Malawi’s government from erecting a statue of Indian anti-colonial campaigner Mahatma Gandhi in the commercial capital, Blantyre. Gandhi believed that “Indians were superior to Africans” and had made numerous disparaging remarks about them, the petition said.
  • A Nigerian government-backed vigilante group has freed 833 children it had recruited to fight Boko Haram militants, the UN children’s agency Unicef has said. The children – some as young as 11 – were freed by the Civilian Joint Task Force, formed in north-eastern Nigeria to help government troops defeat the militant Islamists.
  • Nigeria’s former President Olusegun Obasanjo has endorsed his one-time rival Atiku Abubakar in his bid to defeat incumbent Muhammadu Buhari in next year’s election. Each of the candidates he endorsed – Umaru Yar’Adua in 2007, Goodluck Jonathan in 2011 and Mr Buhari in 2015 – won.
  • Lawyers in Cameroon defending leaders of a movement to create a separate state of Ambazonia have called on the government to produce evidence that their clients are still alive. For the fifth time, secessionist leader Sissiku Ayuk Tabe and his fellow defendants were not present in court, despite a court order saying they should be there.
  • The Ebola outbreak in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo could last at least another four months, the World Health Organization (WHO) says. Peter Salama, the WHO’s head of emergency response, has warned that the virus could spread to neighbouring Rwanda or Uganda.
  • The Zambian government has suspended more than 80 officials from the ministry of general education after an estimated $1.6m (£1.2m) of donor funds was allegedly embezzled.
  • Tunisia’s parliament has approved a law to criminalise racist speech and incitement to hatred, in a move aimed at protecting the mainly Arab nation’s black population.
  • Leading fast-food chains in Zimbabwe have shut their doors as the cash crunch in the country worsens – just two months after President Emmerson Mnangagwa won elections. KFC put up notices at its branches explaining its closure as it did not have US dollars to buy chickens from suppliers.
  • Cameroon’s government has hit out at presidential candidate Maurice Kamto who declared himself the winner of last Sunday’s election, calling his actions “irresponsible”. Official results are to be published within 15 days of the poll. A victory for Kamto will be see a new president take office since 85-year-old Paul Biya won the presidency in 1982.
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The IAS Gazette is a news site run by undergraduates from the Singapore Institute of Management’s International Affairs Society (IAS). Founded in 2018, it traces its roots to The Capital, a now defunct bimonthly magazine previously under the IAS.

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