Wed. Nov 13th, 2019

Nov 26: Trump lavishes self praise, US Supreme Court breaks silence, and May clinches EU deal

North America

  • US Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts defended the independence of the judiciary and rebuked President Donald Trump’s criticism of a federal judge. President Trump has called the judge who ruled against his policy barring assylum for certain immigrants an “Obama judge”.
  • President Donald Trump continues to defend Saudi Arabia and its crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, for the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. President Trump said the Central Intelligence Agency did not conclude if the crown prince ordered the killing even officials have emphasised that such an operation would have needed the prince’s approval. Instead, he continues to stress the importance of Saudi to the US, calling the kingdom a “steadfast partner”.
  • US president Donald Trump decided to use Thanksgiving as a platform to praise himself. When asked what he was thankful for this year, he cited his “great family” as well as himself. “I made a tremendous difference in this country,” he said. “This country is much more stronger now than it was when I took office…”
  • The trade dispute between China and US is once again thrust into the spotlight last week with the Trump administration accusing the former of not changing its “unfair” practices. US trade representative Robert Lighthizer who is commenting on an updated report on Beijing’s intellectual property and technology transfer practices said: “China has not fundamentally altered its unfair, unreasonable, and market-distorting practices.”

South America

  • A Guatemalan former soldier has been sentenced to more than 5,000 years in prison for his role in a massacre during the country’s civil war. Santos López was found responsible for 171 of the deaths, in which he was sentenced to 30 years each of the killings committed in the village and to an additional 30 years for his role in the murder of a girl who had originally survived. More than 200,000 people, most of them indigenous Mayan civilians, were killed or disappeared during the civil war.
  • An ex-Peruvian president has sought political asylum in the embassy of Uruguay just hours after prosecutors barred him from leaving the country as part of a corruption probe. Two-time president of Peru, Allan Garcia is under investigation for bribes allegedly paid by Brazilian construction giant Odebrecht to secure contracts during his second term in office, from 2006 to 2011. This is the second time Garcia has sought to flee to another country amid corruption charges, with the first one in 1990 where he fled to Colombia and then France.

Asia

  • Separatist militants who oppose Chinese investment projects in western Pakistan has claimed the attack on the Chinese consulate in Karachi. Three gunmen tried to enter the consulate but were stopped by guards at a checkpoint, reports said. Two of those killed in the attack were police officers. All the staff inside the consulate are safe and China has called for extra measures to protect its citizens in the country.
  • Taiwan’s president Tsai Ing-wen is quitting as leader of the governing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) after mayoral election defeats. A media report stated that the pro-independence DPP is likely to lose nearly half of the 13 cities and counties it won in 2014. Since Ms Tsai came into power in 2016, there continues to be a wealth gap, sluggish economy, and more importantly, the worsening of relations with China.
  • Italian fashion brand Dolce & Gabbana risked alienating itself from one of the world’s biggest luxury market after it posted a Chinese model struggling to eat pasta and pizza with chopsticks. A fashion show got cancelled and its products have been pulled from the country’s e-commerce sites after the campaign was accused trivialising Chinese culture and promoting unflattering stereotypes.
  • An American national evangelist who wanted to introduce Christianity to an endangered tribe in the Andaman islands off India’s east coast has been killed. This has renewed concerns over the practice of “tribal tourism” as the Ministry of Home Affairs has exempted foreign nationals from having to acquire restricted area permits (RAP) to visit 29 islands in the archipelago. The authorities insisted that foreigners will still need to obtain permission from the district authority and the forest department. Furthermore, there is regular patrolling by the police and officials from the tribal welfare department.
  • Indian politics was brought to new heights last week when a “broken” fax machine pushed the battle for Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) into social media. Both Mehbooba Mufti’s People’s Democratic Party and her political rival, Sajad Lone, have staked claim to forming the next government via Twitter. But J&K governor Satya Pal Malik dissolved the state legislative assembly minutes after the tweets. He said: “the coming together of such parties in a grouping is nothing but an attempt to gain power rather than to form a responsive government”.
  • Malaysia will not ratify the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD), the Prime Minister’s Office said last week. The ICERD is a United Nations Convention that condemns discrimination based on race, colour, descent, nationality or ethnic origin, and calls upon states to pursue a policy of eliminating racial discrimination in all its forms. Instead, it would continue to defend the Federal Constitution in which is enshrined the social contract that was agreed upon by the representatives of all the races during the formation of the country.

Europe

  • After much negotiation, European Council President Donald Tusk announced yesterday that the European Union has approved the Brexit deal. The two key documents include the political declaration which will outline how UK-EU trade and security will work as well as a 585-page, legally binding document covering the “divorce bill”, citizens’ rights and the Northern Ireland “backstop”. However, the deal still needs to be approved by the UK Parliament, with many MPs opposed.
  • Czech Republic prime minister Andrej Babis is thrown into the spotlight after the Czech coalition government survived a no-confidence vote in parliament over a fraud scandal. Babis faces charges of missing European Union subsidies for a farm he transferred to relatives. The vote on Friday saw only 92 opposition legislators backing the motion, well short of the 101 needed. This came just five months into the government’s term and was supported by six opposition parties.
  • A proposal to give Swiss law precedence over international law and treaties has been rejected by voters in a national referendum. Figures based on partial results suggest 67 per cent were against and 33 per cent were in favour. A proposal to subsidise farmers who do not remove their cows’ horns has also been rejected. Under the Swiss system of direct democracy, a proposal needs 100,000 signatures before going to a referendum.
  • The Supreme Court justices in Poland has been reinstated after being forced into early retirement. The governing party, Law and Justice Party (PiS), lowered the the retirement age of judges in July, causing many to quit. Last month, the European Court of Justice has ordered the country to suspend the application of its new law.

Middle East

  • A senior Saudi prince has cast doubt on the reported Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) finding that Saudi Crown Prince ordered the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi last month. Prince Turki al-Faisal, a former Saudi intelligence chief who has also served as ambassador to the US said the agency could not be counted on to reach a credible conclusion.
  • In Tunisia, protesters are pressuring the government to cancel a planned visit by the Crown Prince after his suspected involved in the murder of Jamal Khashoggi.
  • The Houthi rebels and the United Nations (UN) are restarting peace talks with the arrival of Martin Griffiths, the UN envoy for Yemen, in port city Hodeidah. Earlier this year, Abdel-Malik al-Houthi, the chief of Houthi rebels, had said he was prepared to hand over control of Hodeidah port to the UN if the Saudi-UAE military alliance halted its offensive on the city. Griffiths told the UN Security Council two week ago that Yemen’s parties had given “firm assurances” they were committed to attending peace talks he hopes to convene in Sweden before the end of the year.

Africa

  • Ethiopia has chosen an opposition leader, who recently returned from exile, to head its election body. Birtukan Mideksa, a former judge, was named the head of the National Electoral Board of Ethiopia last Thursday, weeks after she returned from the US under an amnesty announced by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed. This came as the nation prepares for a “free, fair and democratic” election in 2020.
  • Nigeria’s main opposition leader has vowed to get the country “working again” by reviving its economy. Atiku Abubakar promised to create millions of jobs to tackle rising inequality and insecurity where Nigeria is Africa’s top oil-producing country as he launched his 2019 presidential campaign. The elections are scheduled to be held in February next year.
  • Angolan president Joan Lourenco vows to fight “wasp nest” of corruption in the country after alleging his predecessor Jose Eduardo dos Santos emptied the state’s finances. Despite its oil wealth, the country remains one of the poorest countries in the world. The government has said it intends to voluntarily or forcibly return illegitimate funds, and kickstart the ailing economy by attracting foreign investment to end its “excessive” dependence on oil revenue.
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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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