Wed. Sep 18th, 2019

Jan 14: French protests continue, Trump renews national emergency threat, and Macedonia’s naming conundrum

North America

  • US President Donald Trump has made his first TV address to the nation from the Oval Office, escalating a stand-off with Congress that has led to a partial government shutdown. Mr Trump insisted on funding for his long-promised border wall with Mexico. However, he did not declare an emergency that would enable him to bypass the lower house of Congress now controlled by the opposition Democrats.
  • Details of former Trump campaign chief Paul Manafort’s alleged lies to investigators have been revealed in improperly redacted new court filings. Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team accused him of lying about interactions with Konstantin Kilimnik, an alleged Russian operative, the papers say. Manafort’s lawyers argue in the filings he did not break his plea deal because he never meant to mislead anyone.
  • A new report has found that US carbon dioxide emissions rose by 3.4% in 2018 after three years of decline. The spike is the largest in eight years, according to Rhodium Group, an independent economic research firm. The data shows the US is unlikely to meet its pledge to reduce emissions by 2025 under the Paris climate agreement.
  • The World Bank is warning of increasing risks, or what it calls “darkening skies”, for the world economy. In its annual assessment of global prospects, the Bank predicts continued, though somewhat slower, growth this year and next. The Bank’s forecast for the global economy is expanding this year of 2.9% and 2.8% in 2020.
  • President Donald Trump walked out of a meeting with Democratic leaders as negotiations broke down on the 19th day of a partial US government shutdown. Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer stuck by their refusal to fund his US-Mexico border wall, prompting Mr Trump to call the meeting “a total waste of time”. Democrats again accused the president of throwing a “temper tantrum”.
  • US President Donald Trump has renewed a threat to declare a national emergency to fund the construction of a wall on the Mexican border. He said that if Congress did not approve funding for the wall, he would “probably… I would almost say definitely” declare a national emergency to bypass lawmakers. Mr Trump says the wall, a key campaign pledge, is needed to tackle a security crisis of illegal immigration. The Democrats say the wall is an “immorality” and a waste of taxpayers’ money.
  • Hundreds of thousands of US government workers have missed their first payday of the year as the partial shutdown of federal agencies bites deeper. Employees such as prison guards, airport staff and FBI agents have been working without pay. The government shutdown, which began last month, has become the longest in history.
  • A right-wing Republican congressman is under fire from his own party after questioning why terms like “white supremacy” are controversial. Steve King of Iowa also pondered in a New York Times interview when labels like “white nationalists” became offensive. Fellow Republican Jeb Bush said condemnation was not enough, and called for party grandees to oust Mr King. Mr King has since defended his remarks, saying they were mischaracterised.
  • US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says he is optimistic an agreement can be reached with Turkey to protect Kurdish fighters in Syria after the US leaves. He was speaking in the United Arab Emirates following a phone call with his Turkish counterpart. Mr Pompeo is touring the Middle East to try to reassure allies following President Donald Trump’s abrupt announcement last month that US forces would withdraw from Syria.
  • Two senior Democratic politicians have announced that they will challenge for the US presidency in 2020. Julian Castro launched his campaign on Saturday, and Tulsi Gabbard has said she will make a formal announcement within a week. Mr Castro is expected to be the only Latino in the race, and Ms Gabbard is the first Hindu member of Congress.

Latin America

  • Venezuela Supreme Court judge Christian Zerpa has fled to the US to protest over President Nicolás Maduro’s second term in office. Last year’s election “was not free and competitive”, the former Maduro loyalist told a Florida radio station. And he accused President Maduro of systematically manipulating the affairs of the Supreme Court.
  • Guatemala has said it is withdrawing from a UN-backed anti-corruption commission which has been investigating the country’s President Jimmy Morales. Guatemalan Foreign Minister Sandra Jovel said on Monday that the UN body had 24 hours to leave the country. She said Mr Morales would continue the fight against corruption, but that there had been a misunderstanding about the investigations into his affairs.
  • A former commander of Colombia’s Farc rebel group, Iván Márquez, has released a video six months after going into hiding. In the film, he accuses the government of betraying the terms of the historic peace agreement signed in 2016. He says 400 community leaders and 85 former fighters have been killed since the peace accord was signed .

Asia

  • After his surprise visit to China, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un left with backing for a possible second summit with US President Donald Trump, state media said. Mr Trump and Mr Kim first met last June, but progress over denuclearisation has since stalled. Chinese President Xi Jinping said he hoped the two leaders “meet each other halfway”, Xinhua news agency reported.
  • A court in Myanmar has rejected an appeal by two Reuters reporters jailed for breaking a state secrets act. Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo were sentenced to seven years in September in a case condemned around the world. They exposed the summary execution of 10 Muslim Rohingyas by the security forces during the military’s anti-Rohingya operation in 2017. But the judge called their terms “suitable punishment” and said the defence had not proved their innocence.
  • The “whole world” wants the UK to avoid a no-deal Brexit, Japan’s PM has claimed, after talks with Theresa May. Shinzo Abe pledged “total support” for the withdrawal agreement she has negotiated with the EU, which faces a crunch vote in the Commons on Tuesday.

Europe

  • French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe has announced plans to punish people who hold unsanctioned protests after seven weeks of anti-government unrest. His government wants to draft new legislation that will ban troublemakers from protests and clamp down on the wearing of masks at demonstrations.
  • Poland’s security services say a Chinese businessman and a Polish man, both employed in telecoms, have been arrested for spying. The Chinese national, Wang Weijing, works for Huawei, according to a source with knowledge of the case. The company told the BBC it was aware of the situation and was looking into it. Huawei has faced scrutiny over alleged links to China’s intelligence services.
  • Macedonia’s parliament has approved a constitutional amendment to change the country’s name to the Republic of North Macedonia. Prime Minister Zoran Zaev narrowly secured the two-thirds majority needed in the historic vote amid a boycott by opposition nationalists. Protesters outside parliament denounced what they called an act of treason. The name change is aimed at ending a 27-year dispute with Greece, which has its own region called Macedonia.
  • Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has said he will call a confidence vote after his governing coalition split over the Macedonia name change. Defence Minister Panos Kammenos withdrew his party’s support, signalling his opposition ahead of an expected vote in the Greek parliament.
  • Thousands of demonstrators turned out across France for new “yellow vests” protests, with dozens of arrests and clashes in Paris and other cities. Police in the capital used water cannon and tear gas as scuffles broke out at the Arc de Triomphe, on the ninth consecutive weekend of protests. Some 84,000 demonstrators were recorded nationwide, an increase compared with last week, official figures show.

Middle East

  • Iran has confirmed it is holding a US citizen, the first American detained in the Islamic Republic during the Trump presidency. Former US Navy member Michael R White, 46, was arrested “some time ago” and is being held at an Iranian prison, the foreign ministry said.
  • The US will work with allies to “expel every last Iranian boot” from Syria, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says. Mr Pompeo warned there would be no US reconstruction aid for areas controlled by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad until Iran and its proxies had left. He also criticised ex-President Barack Obama’s Middle East policy, saying he had made “dire misjudgements”.

Africa

  • Two soldiers who took part in last week’s attempted coup in Gabon have been killed, the president’s office says.They were shot dead after security officers stormed the national radio building which they had taken over. Three others are under arrest.
  • The political situation in Gabon is “under control” following an attempted military coup, a spokesman for the government has said. All five of the rebels who tried to take charge have now been arrested by the authorities. The junior officers claimed they seized power “to restore democracy” in oil-rich Gabon, where the ailing leader’s family has ruled for 50 years.
  • Opposition candidate Felix Tshisekedi has won DR Congo’s presidential election, electoral officials say. The announcement, made overnight, sparked accusations of an “electoral coup” from runner-up Martin Fayulu. The Catholic Church said that the result did not match data collected by its election monitors. The ruling party, whose candidate finished third, has not yet contested the result, prompting allegations of a power-sharing deal with Mr Tshisekedi.
  • Martin Fayulu, an opposition presidential candidate in the Democratic Republic of Congo, has filed an appeal in the constitutional court against last month’s poll result. Mr Fayulu insists he won the vote and has demanded a manual recount, but the electoral commission declared rival Felix Tshisekedi the winner. Troops have deployed near Mr Fayulu’s residence and outside the court.

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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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