Feb 18: India cut Pakistan ties, Trump declares national emergency, Nigeria postpones elections

North America

  • Democrats and Republicans have reached an agreement in principle over border security to fund the US government and avert another partial shutdown. The agreement contains only a fraction of the money President Donald Trump wants for his promised border wall and does not mention a concrete barrier. The deal still needs to be approved by Congress and signed by the president. Speaking last Tuesday, Mr Trump said of the deal: “I can’t say I’m happy, I can’t say I’m thrilled.”
  • Canada’s ethics commissioner is to investigate claims that the prime minister’s office improperly tried to help a firm avoid a criminal trial. A news report earlier this month alleged that PM Justin Trudeau’s office pushed for intervention in the fraud case against engineering group SNC-Lavalin. Mr Trudeau has denied the Globe and Mail report, which cited unnamed sources.
  • US President Donald Trump has said he could extend the 1 March deadline to reach a trade deal with China if they are making good progress. Chinese and US officials held high-level talks last week aimed at halting their damaging trade war. US officials previously said 1 March was a hard deadline for achieving a deal to avert further tariffs. Both countries have imposed duties on billions of dollars worth of one another’s goods.
  • Donald Trump’s former election campaign chief Paul Manafort breached his plea deal with special counsel Robert Mueller by lying to prosecutors, a US judge says. US District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson ruled that Manafort “made multiple false statements” to the FBI, Mr Mueller’s office and a grand jury. Mr Mueller leads a probe into Russian meddling in the 2016 US election. Manafort has pleaded guilty to some charges, avoiding a separate trial.
  • US Federal Emergency Management Agency chief Brock Long has announced his resignation, the latest senior name to leave the Donald Trump administration. In the post since June 2017, he has led the response to several extreme natural disasters, including the heavily criticised operation in Puerto Rico after a devastating hurricane. Long was also involved in a row over the use of government resources. In a statement, he said it was “time for me to go home to my family”.
  • US prosecutors have accused a former US Air Force officer of spying for Iran in an elaborate operation that targeted her fellow intelligence officers. Monica Witt, who allegedly defected to Iran in 2013, had previously worked as a US counterintelligence officer. Four Iranian citizens have also been charged with attempting to install spy software on computers belonging to Ms Witt’s colleagues.
  • Democratic and Republican politicians have sharply criticised President Trump’s plan to use emergency powers to pay for a border wall with Mexico. Mr Trump declared the emergency in an attempt to bypass Congress, which has refused to approve $5.7bn (£4.4bn) for the wall. Building a border wall was a key pledge in Mr Trump’s election campaign. Declaring a national emergency would give Mr Trump access to billions of dollars for his project.
  • US President Donald Trump has put on weight since his last medical check-up, but remains in “very good health”, his official doctor Sean Conley says. Mr Trump was receiving a higher dose of medicine to lower his cholesterol levels, his memo said. Mr Trump weighed 243lb (110kg) in last week’s examination, which is up from 239lb in early 2018. Other doctors noted that his Body Mass Index (BMI) now fell in excess of 30, which is considered clinically obese.
  • President Trump has confirmed he will use emergency powers to build a wall on the US border with Mexico, saying “walls work”. Making the announcement in the White House Rose Garden, the president said the emergency would allow him to get almost $8bn for the wall. The money is expected to be diverted from military construction projects and efforts to fight the drugs trade. This is still considerably short of the estimated $23bn cost of the wall along almost 2,000 miles (3,200km) of border.
  • President Trump faces legal challenges to his decision to use emergency powers to build a wall on the US border with Mexico. California and New York said they would take legal action to challenge his move to bypass Congress and secure funding for the project. Building the wall was a key pledge of Mr Trump’s campaign. Democrats said it was a “gross abuse of power” and vowed to contest it “using every remedy available”.
  • A US immigration detention centre in the state of Texas has stopped force-feeding migrants, officials say. Six men on hunger strike at a centre in El Paso were being fed forcibly through plastic nasal tubes. Relatives said it was causing severe nosebleeds and vomiting, while the UN warned it could amount to torture.
  • US President Donald Trump’s pick to be America’s new UN ambassador, Heather Nauert, has withdrawn her nomination for the post. Ms Nauert, a former Fox News presenter, said in a statement on Saturday that the decision was made “in the best interest of my family”. “The past two months have been gruelling,” the statement, issued by the state department, said. Mr Trump had announced Ms Nauert as his choice for the UN role last December.

Latin America

  • Venezuela’s embattled President Nicolás Maduro has called Donald Trump’s government a “gang of extremists” and blamed the US for his country’s crisis. In an interview with the BBC, Mr Maduro said he would not allow humanitarian aid into Venezuela as it was a way for the US to justify an intervention. “They are warmongering in order to take over Venezuela,” he said. The US and most Western governments have recognised opposition leader Juan Guaidó as interim president.
  • Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó has vowed at a rally in the capital Caracas to ensure humanitarian aid blocked by President Nicolás Maduro is brought in to the country. Mr Guaidó said new collection points and routes into the country would allow volunteers to bring the aid in. Venezuelans are facing drastic food shortages amid an economic crisis.
  • All 78 inmates of a prison in southern Haiti have escaped from captivity, according to the country’s police. The detainees reportedly made their escape from Aquin prison while police were distracted by anti-government protests nearby. Haiti’s national police force said it has launched an investigation into the incident. It comes after days of demonstrations against President Jovenel Moise, which have left at least four people dead.
  • Haitian President Jovenel Moise has said he “will not leave the country in the hands of armed gangs and drug traffickers”, amid continuing protests. He broke his silence in a TV address after a week of violence in which at least seven people have been killed. Protesters, who accuse Mr Moise of corruption, want his resignation.


  • The CEO of Rappler, a news website critical of the government in the Philippines, has been arrested at its headquarters in Manila. Maria Ressa has been accused of “cyber-libel” over a report on a businessman’s alleged ties to a former judge. Press freedom advocates see this as an attempt by the government to silence the news organisation. This is the latest in a string of different allegations against Ms Ressa, whose website has been described as “fake news” by Mr Duterte.
  • Australian PM Scott Morrison says he will re-open a controversial detention centre on Christmas Island, after a historic defeat in parliament. Last Tuesday, non-government MPs secured enough votes to pass a bill making it easier for sick refugees held offshore to be treated in the country. Mr Morrison said the law would weaken the nation’s tough border policies and embolden human traffickers. Opponents accused him of spreading fear before an impending election.
  • The sister of Thailand’s king has said she is “saddened” by the reaction to her attempted bid to become the country’s next prime minister. Princess Ubolratana was disqualified by the country’s Election Commission – who are now also seeking to dissolve the party that nominated her. Her unprecedented nomination broke with the tradition of the Thai royal family publicly staying out of politics. King Vajiralongkorn had called her bid “extremely inappropriate”.
  • Police in Papua New Guinea are seeking the return of almost 300 cars, which were loaned to officials during last year’s Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) summit. The luxury fleet was imported so visiting leaders could be driven around in style in a country mired in poverty. But a police commander said on Tuesday that 284 vehicles are missing. The cars include Landcruisers, Fords, Mazdas and Pajeros, Superintendent Dennis Corcoran said.
  • Thirteen same-sex couples across Japan took legal action last Thursday against the government, demanding the right to get married. They are suing for symbolic damages, arguing that being barred from marriage violates their constitutional rights. Should the courts agree, it would mean same-sex unions will have to be permitted in future. While Japan does not allow gay marriage, surveys suggest there is strong support for the case.
  • India has said it will ensure the “complete isolation” of Pakistan after a suicide bomber killed 46 paramilitary police in Indian-administered Kashmir. It claims to have “incontrovertible evidence” of its neighbour’s involvement but has not provided it. Pakistan denies any role in the attack by militant group Jaish-e-Mohammad, which is based on its soil. Thursday’s bombing of the convoy was the deadliest attack on Indian forces in the region for decades.
  • China has closed the base camp on its side of Mount Everest to visitors who don’t have climbing permits. Authorities have resorted to the unusual move to deal with the mounting waste problem at the site. The ban means tourists can only go as far as a monastery slightly below the 5,200m (17,060ft) base camp level.


  • Russia is considering whether to disconnect from the global internet briefly, as part of a test of its cyber-defences. The test will mean data passing between Russian citizens and organisations stays inside the nation rather than being routed internationally. A draft law mandating technical changes needed to operate independently was introduced to its parliament last year.
  • A dozen leaders of Catalonia’s failed 2017 independence bid have gone on trial in Madrid, facing charges including rebellion and sedition. If convicted, some could face up to 25 years in prison. The semi-autonomous region of Catalonia held an independence referendum on 1 October 2017, and declared its independence from Spain weeks later.
  • Demonstrators have marched en masse through Barcelona in protest at the trial of Catalan separatist leaders. Some 200,000 people took to the streets, waving Catalan flags and shouting pro-separatist slogans in support of the 12 leaders on trial.
  • Politicians and policymakers have failed to grasp the gravity of the environmental crisis facing the Earth, a report claims. The think-tank IPPR says human impacts have reached a critical stage and threaten to destabilise society and the global economy. Scientists warn of a potentially deadly combination of factors. These include climate change, mass loss of species, topsoil erosion, forest felling and acidifying oceans.
  • Spain’s Socialist government is widely expected to call a snap general election after failing to get its budget through parliament. Catalan separatists rejected Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez’s bill after the government refused to discuss the region’s right to self-determination. They voted with the conservatives, despite their different agendas.
  • Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez has called a snap general election for 28 April, after Catalan nationalist MPs withdrew support for the Socialist government’s budget. It is just eight months since Mr Sánchez took office, heading a minority government reliant on Catalan support. Opinion polls suggest that no single party would win a clear majority. But conservatives and the far-right Vox party are expected to do well.
  • A British woman who fled to Syria as a schoolgirl to join the Islamic State group could be prevented from returning to the UK, the home secretary has said. “My message is clear,” Sajid Javid told the Times: “If you have supported terrorist organisations abroad I will not hesitate to prevent your return.” He added that if Shamima Begum, 19, did come home she could be prosecuted.
  • Prime Minister Theresa May has suffered another Commons defeat after MPs voted down her approach to Brexit talks. MPs voted by 303 to 258 – a majority of 45 – against a motion endorsing the government’s negotiating strategy. The defeat has no legal force and Downing Street said it would not change the PM’s approach to talks with the EU.
  • A third man has been named as a suspect in the poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal in Salisbury last year. Investigative website Bellingcat claims that he is Denis Vyacheslavovich Sergeev, a Russian military intelligence officer. It says he came to the UK at the same time as two suspects alleged to have carried out the March 2018 attack.

Middle East

  • President Trump has told the UK and other European allies to take back and put on trial more than 800 Islamic State (IS) group fighters captured in the final battle against the group. His tweet comes as US-backed Kurdish forces continue an assault on the last pocket of IS territory on the Syrian side of the Iraqi border. The IS fighters are being held by the Kurdish-led forces.
  • Egypt’s parliament has overwhelmingly voted to approve draft constitutional changes that could extend President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi’s time in office by another 12 years. Mr Sisi is due to stand down in 2022 when his second four-year term ends. But 485 of the country’s 596 lawmakers voted on Thursday to lengthen presidential terms to six years and let Mr al-Sisi serve another two. Several Egyptian human rights groups have spoken out against the decision.
  • Iran’s president has warned its neighbours not to let “terrorists abuse their territory” after a suicide car bombing killed 27 Revolutionary Guards. Hassan Rouhani blamed the United States and Israel for Wednesday’s attack in the south-eastern province of Sistan-Baluchestan, near the Pakistan border. But he said Iran reserved the right to take action if other countries in the region failed to prevent terrorism. A group thought to operate from western Pakistan said it was behind the attack.


  • At least 15 people have been killed in a stampede at a campaign rally for Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari, a hospital spokesman says. The incident happened at a stadium in the southern city of Port Harcourt when the crowd surged towards a gate after President Buhari’s speech.
  • Nigeria’s president and leading opposition candidate have appealed for calm after the shock move to delay elections for a week. President Muhammadu Buhari said he was “deeply disappointed” but urged people to refrain from “civil disorder”. Main rival Atiku Abubakar called for patience but accused the administration of “anti-democratic acts”. Election officials cited “logistical” reasons for the 11th-hour delay in presidential and parliamentary polls.
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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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