Wed. Sep 18th, 2019

Photo by Scott Eisen/Getty Images

Feb 11: Warren announces Presidential bid, Russia plans new missiles, Hanoi to host second Trump-Kim Summit

North America

  • The US is to send an additional 2,000 troops to its border with Mexico, the Pentagon has announced. It will bring the total number of troops stationed on the southern border to about 4,300. The Pentagon said the soldiers would help border-patrol agents, carry out surveillance work and install miles of razor wire.
  • Prosecutors in Manhattan have ordered the Trump inaugural committee to hand over documents relating to how the team raised and spent over $100m (£77m). The subpoena requests a wide range of data regarding who donated to the inauguration, whether they were non-US citizens, and how the money was spent. White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders told CNN on Tuesday that the order has “nothing to do with the president”.
  • A UN trade official has warned a US plan to raise tariffs on Chinese goods next month would have “massive” implications for the global economy. The US plans to increase tariffs on Chinese goods if the two sides fail to make progress on a trade deal by 1 March. The comments followed a report by a UN trade agency on the impact of the US-China trade war. It said Asian countries are likely to suffer most from protectionism.
  • US President Donald Trump has announced in his State of the Union speech that he will hold a second nuclear summit with North Korea’s leader this month. In an address to the nation with the theme “Choosing Greatness”, he vowed once again to build a border wall. While appealing for political unity, the Republican president also said “ridiculous partisan investigations” could damage US prosperity.
  • The world is in the middle of what is likely to be the warmest 10 years since records began in 1850, say scientists. The Met Office is forecasting that temperatures for each of the next five years are likely to be 1C or more above pre-industrial levels. In the next five years there’s also a chance we’ll see a year in which the average global temperature rise could be greater than 1.5C. That’s seen as a critical threshold for climate change.
  • US President Donald Trump has said territory held by the Islamic State group in Syria and Iraq could be “100%” liberated as early as next week. “It should be announced, probably some time next week, that we will have 100% of the caliphate,” he told a gathering of coalition partners. However, he also cautioned that he wanted to “wait for the official word”.
  • The Trump administration has refused to respond to a request from Congress to provide a report determining who killed the Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Senators wrote in October demanding the murder be investigated and that the White House give more information. An administration official said the president was within his rights to decline to act.
  • US President Donald Trump says his second summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un will be held in the Vietnamese capital Hanoi. The two men will meet on 27-28 February for talks expected to focus on persuading the communist state to give up its nuclear weapons programme. Modern relations with Vietnam are seen as a model for US ties with the North. A US envoy held “very productive” talks with the North to prepare for the new summit, Mr Trump said.
  • US President Donald Trump is “in very good health”, the White House doctor said after a four-hour physical examination. Mr Trump, 72, had previously been asked to lose at least 10lb (4.5kg) and there is no evidence that he has done so. According to spokesman Hogan Gidley, Mr Trump “admits” he has not followed his diet and exercise plan “religiously”
  • US Senator Elizabeth Warren has formally launched her bid to stand for the White House in 2020 with a speech in which she promised to tackle economic inequality. She is the latest Democrat to launch a campaign to become the party’s presidential candidate. Even before she had taken to the stage, President Donald Trump’s 2020 campaign team had responded calling her a fraud.

Latin America

  • Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro has said he cannot rule out the possibility of civil war as pressure mounts on him to stand down. In a TV interview, he warned that US President Donald Trump would leave the White House “stained with blood” if he intervened in the crisis. He also defiantly rejected the EU’s Sunday deadline to call snap elections.
  • Venezuela’s opposition leader Juan Guaidó has dismissed warnings from President Nicolás Maduro the country’s political crisis could spark civil war. Mr Maduro said that whether there was war would depend on the “madness” of the US and its allies. But Mr Guaidó rubbished the suggestion as an “invention” of his presidential rival.
  • US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has demanded Venezuela reopen a bridge on the Colombian border for an aid shipment organised by the opposition. Venezuelan soldiers have blocked the crossing ahead of a delivery arranged by opposition leader Juan Guaidó, who has declared himself interim president. President Nicolás Maduro, who has the support of the army, has rejected letting it into the country.
  • Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó has vowed to open humanitarian aid routes into the country in defiance of the government. Mr Guaidó, who has declared himself interim president, called on volunteers to help with distribution and said his plans would be ready next week. Footage shows soldiers blocking a key bridge at the border with Colombia. A government official called aid “a Trojan horse” and said the country had a duty to defend its borders.
  • A Brazilian court has sentenced former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva to a further 12 years and 11 months in prison for corruption. Lula, 73, was found guilty of taking renovation work from a company implicated in a massive corruption scheme. The former president is already serving a 12-year sentence over work done on a beach-front property.

Asia

  • Authorities in Australia say they are investigating an attempt to hack into its parliament’s computer network. Lawmakers said there was “no evidence” that information had been accessed or stolen, but politicians’ passwords have been reset as a precaution. Local cyber-security experts have suggested the hack likely came from a foreign state.
  • Thailand’s King Vajiralongkorn has denounced as “inappropriate” his sister’s unprecedented bid to run for prime minister in March’s election. In a palace statement, he said such an act would “defy the nation’s culture”.
  • The party that nominated a Thai princess to run for prime minister has said it will comply with the king’s wishes after he opposed the move. Thai Raksa Chart is allied to divisive ex-Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. The candidacy would have broken with the tradition of the Thai royal family publicly staying out of politics. The party said it complied “with the royal command with loyalty to the king and all members of the royal family”.
  • Turkey has called on China to close its detention camps following the reported death of a renowned musician from the ethnic Uighur minority. Abdurehim Heyit is thought to have been serving an eight-year sentence in the Xinjiang region, where a million Uighurs are reportedly being detained. A statement from Turkey’s foreign ministry said they were being subjected to “torture” in “concentration camps”. China says the facilities are re-education camps.

Europe

  • Russia says it is planning to develop new missile systems after both Russia and the US suspended their involvement in an arms control pact. The Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty banned both countries from using short- and medium-range missiles. Last month, US President Donald Trump announced the US would leave the pact, which it has long accused the Russians of violating. Russia then did the same.
  • Nato states have signed an agreement with Macedonia, clearing the way for the Balkan nation to become the military alliance’s 30th member. Each Nato member will now need to ratify the accession protocol. Last month the Greek parliament backed a deal ending a 27-year row over its northern neighbour’s name.
  • European Council President Donald Tusk has spoken of a “special place in hell” for “those who promoted Brexit without even a sketch of a plan of how to carry it out safely”. He was speaking after talks with Irish leader Leo Varadkar in Brussels. Brexit-backing MPs reacted with anger to the comments, accusing Mr Tusk of “arrogance”. Downing Street said it was a question for Mr Tusk “whether he considers the use of that kind of language helpful”.
  • Brussels has knocked down a proposed French-German rail merger, designed to help Europe compete with China. The EU’s competition commission blocked the tie-up, saying uniting France’s Alstom with the rail arm of Germany’s Siemens would lead to higher prices. The firms had said the merger would create an industrial champion on a par with other global players.
  • Theresa May has told EU leaders she can get the Brexit deal through Parliament if they give her legally-binding changes to it. The UK prime minister – who also vowed to deliver Brexit “on time” – was speaking after a series of meetings with top EU officials in Brussels. European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker again ruled out the kind of changes Mrs May wants to see. But the two sides agreed to further talks to break the deadlock.
  • Germany’s competition regulator has told Facebook to substantially restrict how it collects and combines data about its users unless they give it explicit consent. The watchdog has carried out a probe into the social network following concerns that members were unaware of the extent of the firm’s activities. It covered data gathered from third-party sources as well as via Facebook’s other apps, including Instagram.
  • France has warned Italian Deputy Prime Minister Luigi Di Maio not to interfere in the country’s politics, after he met French “yellow-vest” protesters. “This new provocation is unacceptable between neighbouring countries and partners at the heart of the EU,” the French foreign ministry said. Mr Di Maio, leader of the populist Five Star Movement, met two leaders of the anti-government protests on Tuesday.
  • EU ambassadors have agreed to toughen regulations on a controversial gas pipeline from Russia to Germany, but they have decided not to back plans that might threaten its completion. Work on the 1,225km (760-mile) Nord Stream 2 pipeline under the Baltic Sea is set to end this year, but it has angered several EU countries. The EU wants to bring pipelines coming into the bloc under its energy rules.
  • Giving jobless people in Finland a basic income for two years did not lead them to find work, researchers said. From January 2017 until December 2018, 2,000 unemployed Finns got a monthly flat payment of €560 (£490; $634). The aim was to see if a guaranteed safety net would help people find jobs, and support them if they had to take insecure gig economy work. While employment levels did not improve, participants said they felt happier and less stressed.

Middle East

  • Iraq’s President Barham Saleh has rebuked Donald Trump over his comments that he wanted to maintain a US military presence there to watch Iran. Mr Trump told CBS last Sunday he intended to keep an “incredible” base being used by US troops to combat the jihadist group Islamic State “because I want to be looking a little bit at Iran”. Mr Saleh said on Monday that the US had not asked Iraq’s permission to do so. It should stick to fighting terrorism and not pursue other agendas, he added.
  • The leader of the Taliban’s peace negotiations with the US says the insurgents do not want to seize “the whole country by [military] power”. “It will not bring peace to Afghanistan,” Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanikzai told the BBC. However, he said the group would not agree to a ceasefire until foreign forces were withdrawn from Afghanistan.
  • The US military has announced plans to buy and test out Israel’s Iron Dome missile defence system. The system, which uses radar and interceptor missiles to combat incoming threats, has been in use since 2011. The US Department of Defence has said the system will be used on a test basis, while it assesses options for the military’s long-term needs. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has labelled the sale a “great achievement for the country”.
  • Saudi Arabia “seriously curtailed and undermined” Turkey’s ability to investigate the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, a UN expert has said. A preliminary report says it was 13 days before Turkey was allowed into the consulate where the journalist was killed. Khashoggi was last seen alive entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on 2 October. The 59-year-old was a prominent critic of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Africa

  • The government of Democratic Republic of Congo has defended the decrees that grant ministers lifetime salaries and other benefits. In a statement released on Monday, the government said the payments “are not to enrich the officials”. The two decrees, which grant former ministers benefits worth at least $2,000 (£1,530) have been widely criticised. Most of the population in DR Congo lives in poverty.
  • An office for Nigeria’s election commission has been burned down just six days before the country is due to vote in a general election. The fire in Plateau State has destroyed everything needed to vote, including ballot boxes and voting slips. A spokesperson called it a setback for the preparations for the election but is quoted in This Day as saying that it is too early to suspect sabotage. The general election is due to be held on Saturday.
  • Algeria’s 81-year-old President Abdelaziz Bouteflika will seek a fifth term in April’s elections, he announced in a message published by state media. Mr Bouteflika has been in office for 20 years but has rarely been seen in public since he had a stroke in 2013. He insisted his “unwavering desire” to serve Algeria allowed him to “transcend the constraints of health concerns”. He is confined to a wheelchair and has cancelled recent official meetings.

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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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