Tue. Jul 23rd, 2019

Nov 12: Dems take House, Florida sees recounts, and Sessions gets the sack

Americas

  • The Democrats have taken control of the US House of Representatives in the mid-term elections, dealing a blow to President Donald Trump. A Democratic majority in the lower chamber for the first time in eight years will restrict his ability to steer his programme through Congress.
  • US Attorney General Jeff Sessions has been fired by President Donald Trump. Mr Trump had criticised his top law official for months, mainly over his refusal to oversee the investigation into alleged Russian meddling in favour of Mr Trump’s election in 2016.
  • President Donald Trump has defended his new acting attorney general, Matthew Whitaker, as opponents call for his recusal from the Russia investigation. Mr Whitaker was named to replace former attorney general, Jeff Sessions, who was fired by Mr Trump on Wednesday. Controversy arose over Mr Whitaker’s previous comments about ending the probe into alleged Russian meddling in favour of Mr Trump’s election in 2016.
  • A United States judge has blocked the construction of a controversial oil pipeline from Canada to the US. The judge in the state of Montana said the Trump administration had “discarded” facts when it approved the Keystone XL Pipeline in 2017. It had been rejected two years earlier by the Obama administration, mainly on environmental grounds.
  • Migrants who cross the southern US border illegally will temporarily be denied asylum under a new rule, US President Donald Trump has said. Mr Trump has signed a proclamation barring migrants who enter illegally from asylum for up to 90 days. The president can stop migration in the “national interest”, a statement said. Rights groups say it is illegal and have launched a legal challenge.
  • The youngest woman ever elected to Congress has a problem – she can’t afford her rent. That is until she starts her new job in January. After telling the New York Times she’s waiting for her first pay cheque before renting an apartment in Washington DC, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is again being called the “millennial Congresswoman”.
  • Florida has ordered a machine recount of votes for state governor and senator following Tuesday’s closely fought mid-term elections, officials say. Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner said that as unofficial results in both races had fallen within a margin of 0.5%, a recount was required by law.
  • President Donald Trump has lambasted Florida’s election recount process, calling it an attempt by Democrats to win a US Senate seat with fake votes. Mr Trump told reporters “there’s a lot of dishonesty” over contested votes in Broward County. However, there has been no evidence of voter fraud.
  • The White House has suspended the credentials of CNN’s chief White House correspondent hours after a testy exchange with President Donald Trump. Jim Acosta was asking a question at a news conference on Wednesday when a White House worker tried to grab the microphone from his hand.
  • A Chilean court has convicted the former army commander-in-chief of complicity in the deaths of 15 people following the 1973 military coup. General Juan Emilio Cheyre was sentenced to three years and a day under house arrest.

Asia

  • China has promised to further cut import tariffs and open its economy as it tries to address criticisms that its trade practices are “unfair”. In a speech at a Shanghai trade expo, President Xi Jinping also made a robust defence of the global free trade system which he said was “under attack”.
  • Asia Bibi, a Pakistani Christian woman acquitted of blasphemy after spending eight years on death row, has been freed from prison. Last week’s Supreme Court ruling sparked violent protests from Islamists and the government agreed to their demand to stop her leaving Pakistan.
  • A court in the Philippines has sentenced former first lady Imelda Marcos to prison for corruption. Imelda Marcos, 89, was the wife of late president Ferdinand Marcos, and famous for owning 1,000 pairs of shoes. The charges relate to alleged illicit financial dealings with Swiss-based NGOs while serving in her husband’s government in the 1970s and 80s.
  • Australia will create a multi-billion dollar fund for Pacific island nations to build infrastructure, in an apparent attempt to counter China’s influence. Delivering a major policy speech, PM Scott Morrison said he aimed to restore the Pacific to the “front and centre” of Australia’s foreign outlook. In Beijing, China’s top diplomat said the two countries were “not rivals”.
  • Russia has hosted a landmark international meeting on Afghanistan in Moscow aimed at kick-starting peace talks after decades of war. It is the first time Taliban militants have attended such an event. Members of Afghanistan’s High Peace Council, which oversees peace efforts but does not represent the Afghan government, were also present.
  • President Maithripala Sirisena has moved to dissolve parliament amid a political crisis following his attempt to replace Sri Lanka’s prime minister. The official notification, which took effect at midnight last Friday, would trigger a general election on 5 January.

Europe

  • A ban on a Polish rally by a Warsaw Judge has been overturned by a Polish court. The rally marks the country’s 100th anniversary of independence, but has become a magnet for the far right in recent years. A year ago, 60,000 people took part in the nationalist march, amid chants of “Pure Poland, white Poland”.
  • On the 80th anniversary of the Nazi Kristallnacht attack on Germany’s Jews, French Prime Minister Édouard Philippe has revealed a 69% increase in anti-Semitic incidents this year.
  • The UK economy grew by 0.6% in the three months to September, with warm weather boosting consumer spending, the Office for National Statistics said. It is the highest quarterly growth figure since the fourth quarter of 2016, when the economy grew 0.7%.
  • DUP leader Arlene Foster has said her party will “not be able to support” Theresa May’s latest proposals aimed at resolving the Brexit deadlock. The party accused the PM of breaking promises over plans to avoid a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. Downing Street reiterated the PM’s commitment to avoiding a hard border.
  • The UK must have the power to end any post-Brexit “backstop” customs accord with the EU on its own, International Trade Secretary Liam Fox has said. The Brexiteer said the UK had voted to leave the EU and “that decision can’t be subcontracted to somebody else”.
  • Theresa May will probably lose a Commons vote on her Brexit deal, former Brexit Secretary David Davis has said. But Mr Davis – who quit his cabinet role over the Brexit plan in July – said he believed defeat would prompt the UK and EU to agree a “better deal”.
  • Jo Johnson has quit as transport minister and called for the public to have a fresh say on Brexit. The MP, who is Boris Johnson’s brother but voted Remain in the referendum, said the deal being negotiated with the EU “will be a terrible mistake”.
  • The UK needs to “pause and reflect” before doing something “irrevocably stupid” over Brexit, Jo Johnson said a day after quitting as a minister. On BBC Radio 4’s Today he called again for another referendum, saying what was being offered fell “spectacularly short” of what had been promised.
  • Donald Trump and France’s Emmanuel Macron have both said Europe should pay more of its defence costs, a day after the US president attacked the idea of a European army. He said the US wanted “a strong Europe,” but the defence bill “has been largely on the United States.”

Middle East

  • The US unleashed its “toughest ever” sanctions against Iran last Monday, a move that has already sparked mass protests in the oil-rich nation. Thousands of Iranians chanting “Death to America” rallied on Sunday, rejecting calls for talks. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has vowed to sell oil and break the sanctions. The military was also quoted as saying it would hold air defence drills on Monday and Tuesday to prove the country’s capabilities.
  • The battle for the Yemeni port city of Hudaydah has intensified, as government forces backed by Saudi-led coalition air strikes advance on rebel positions. More than 150 people are reported to have been killed since troops and militiamen stepped up a ground assault on the city’s outskirts last Thursday.
  • The Syrian army has freed 19 women and children held hostage since July by so-called Islamic State, state media say. They say the captives were rescued when troops launched an operation north-east of the desert city of Palmyra.
  • Turkey says it has shared recordings related to the murder of the journalist and writer Jamal Khashoggi with the US, the UK, Saudi Arabia and others. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan repeated his assertion that Saudi Arabia knew who had killed Khashoggi.

Africa

  • Prominent Ethiopian opposition politician Birtukan Mideksa has returned home from exile in the United States.She was one of several opposition leaders imprisoned for life, accused of instigating protests following the controversial 2005 election.
  • The head of the African Union Commission has called for a renewed effort to try to find a peaceful solution to the conflict in Cameroon. Moussa Faki Mahamat’s call for an inclusive dialogue comes a day after dozens of school children were reunited with their parents – two days after being kidnapped. They were reportedly held by Anglophone separatists.
  • Prosecutors at the trial of the Rwandan political activist Diane Rwigara have asked for a 22-year prison sentence. The critic of President Paul Kagame, who tried to run for president last year, denied charges of inciting insurrection and forging documents. In a court in the capital, Kigali, she stood by her assertion that Rwanda’s economy was mainly controlled by a governing party elite and she argued that the trial was meant to kill her off politically.
  • The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has hit out at the state of press freedom in Tanzania hours after two of its members of staff were released after being briefly held by the country’s immigration authorities.
  • More than 200 people have now died in the latest outbreak of Ebola in the Democratic Republic of Congo, according to health officials. About half the victims were from Beni, a city of 800,000 in the North Kivu region, the national health authority said.
  • Rates of female genital mutilation (FGM) have fallen dramatically among girls in Africa in the last two decades, according to new research. The study, published in BMJ Global Health, cited a “huge and significant decline” among under-14s.

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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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