Sun. Dec 8th, 2019

President Trump’s live press conference at the United Nations last Wednesday (Sept 25). | Photo by: Reuters

Trump faces impeachment calls again, Johnson’s proroguing deemed unlawful, climate change at the forefront in the UN

Trump faces impeachment calls again, Johnson’s proroguing deemed unlawful, climate change at the forefront in the UN.

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North America & Canada

  • Trump faces fresh calls for his impeachment, as transcripts of the US President’s call to his Ukranian counterpart Volodymyr Zelensky come to light. The phone call confirms Trump’s explicit request to Ukraine’s president to investigate the son of Democrat rival Joe Biden. The Democrats have begun an impeachment inquiry for what is seen as “the President of the United States using the powers of his office to solicit interference from a foreign country in the 2020 US election”.
  • The 74th United Nations (UN) General Assembly officially began high-level discussions last Tuesday (Sept 24) at the UN Headquarters in New York. This year’s annual meeting saw climate change taking centre stage, while tensions in the Gulf start to boil, and the US-China trade dispute continues with no real end in sight.
  • US bill in support of Hong Kong’s democracy moves a step closer to being passed. The Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act of 2019 has passed through the House committee with unanimous support, and was also approved by the Senate committee. The bill could be voted on by the House of Representatives in as soon as two weeks. The bill has been branded as “foreign interference in domestic affairs” by Beijing.
  • US judge blocks Trump from imposing new rules that would allow for lengthy detention of migrant children. The Los Angeles District Court judge ruled that the new policy was in conflict with a previous settlement agreement which requires the release of immigrant children caught on the border as quickly as possible to relatives in the US, and that the children can only be held in facilities licensed by a state.
  • US to cut its acceptance of refugees drastically to an all-time low of 18,000. This comes as the UN calls the displacement of people around the world as the largest in modern history.
  • The US state of California issued a public health warning asking people to stop vaping immediately as the e-cigarette crisis grows. Several states have also banned the act. There have been over 800 vaping-related lung injuries and nine deaths across the US, whilst ongoing studies have shown that harmful compounds may be inhaled during vaping.
  • A Senate report by Democrats alleged that the National Rifle Association (NRA) acted as “foreign assets” in providing Russian officials access to US political organisations. The investigation found that NRA officials had travelled to Moscow in December 2015, prior to the 2016 US presidential elections. 

Latin America

  • The UN Human Rights Council will be investigating alleged human rights violations in Venezuela, including executions, disappearances and torture. A report is expected to be delivered in a year. This was after a resolution was put forward by Venezuela’s neighbours and backed by European countries. Venezuelan ambassador Jorge Valero slammed the resolution as a “hostile initiative” and said his country had no intention to cooperate with the mission.
  • US President Donald Trump has banned senior Venezuelan officials and their families from entering the US – the latest effort aimed at forcing President Nicolás Maduro to step down. Venezuelans were suffering “a tragedy of historic proportions” but they would be “freed”, Mr Trump told Latin American leaders meeting in New York. The Venezuelan government has not commented.
  • The US has imposed sanctions on Cuba’s Raul Castro and his children last Thursday (Sept 26) as it continues to pressure its long-time foe for supporting the government of Nicolas Maduro in Venezuela. The Cuban government has not commented.
  • Venezuelan President Maduro and his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, have skipped the UNGA to hold their own talks in Moscow last Wednesday (Sept 25). Putin reiterated his support for Maduro’s government, but also highlighted the importance of dialogue between the government and the “opposition forces”.
  • A judge in Brazil has issued a restraining order against former attorney general Rodrigo Janot after he admitted carrying a gun inside the Supreme Court to kill one of the justices for allegedly smearing his daughter with an untrue allegation. He is now barred from being within 200m of members of the bench and banned from entering any tribunal building in Brazil. Police have searched his home to remove his weapons, and take his gun licence away.
  • A ruling by Brazil’s top court could see one of jailed former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva’s corruption convictions, who has been sentenced to 25 years in prison, being overturned. The Supreme Court ruled that defendants should be allowed to defend themselves after being cited in plea deals by witnesses also accused of corruption. The decision could annul one of Lula’s two convictions and send the case back to a pre-sentencing stage.
  • President Jair Bolsonaro has defended his government’s treatment of indigenous people and insisted that the Brazilian areas of the Amazon rainforest are sovereign territory. While conservationists blame the government for hastening deforestation, Mr Bolsonaro, in an address at the UN last week, criticised the international media for sensationalist reporting.
  • Thousands of people have taken to the streets in Haiti amidst violent protests against President Jovenel Moïse last week. Fuel shortages, rising prices and allegations of government corruption have fuelled weeks of protest. Mr Moïse has cancelled his speech at the United Nations to appeal for order back home. Four people have died so far.

Asia

  • Embattled Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam holds first public dialogue to address the ongoing protest crisis. Over 130 randomly picked participants were present for the session, and faced heavy security checks before entering the venue. However, Ms Lam could only leave four hours after the event ended, due to a gathering of protesters who barricaded the roads leading out of the area. The city enters its 17th consecutive weekend of protest.
  • China begins process to join the Arms Trade Treaty, which Trump threatens to leave. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi says China is committed to defending multilateralism, and that abandoning the agreement will have “negative impacts in various areas.”
  • Two Indonesian college students died, following a week of nationwide demonstrations in Indonesia. One was found to have died from blunt-force head injuries while the other was shot. The protests were a result of discontent over controversial legal reforms to weaken the country’s anti-graft agency as well as the contentious extramarital sex bill.
  • Singapore renews a three-decade military base pact with US to 2035. This comes amidst ongoing US-China tensions in the South China Sea. The agreement grants US forces access to Singapore’s naval and air bases, and serves as a key logistic stop for US military operations.
  • Australia sees a fall in Chinese tourist numbers as the US-China trade war extends uncertainty. Analysts estimate a loss of as much as US$543 million over the next two years.

Europe

  • The United Kingdom’s Supreme Court ruled Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s advice to the Queen, to prorogue parliament for five weeks, as unlawful. The decision was unanimous amongst the 11 justices of the UK’s highest court. PM Boris expressed disagreement with the ruling as parliament resumed.
  • Cyberattacks on Airbus in attempts to steal high-tech secrets over the past few months. The intrusions occurred through the computer systems of the airliner manufacturer’s supplier. Some security sources have begun pointing fingers at China, which has vehemently denies such allegations.
  • Former French President Jacques Chirac dies at age 86 last week. He was France’s second-longest serving leader, who helmed from 1995 to 2007. He was one of the few major western leaders to oppose the US-led invasion of Iraq, stirring much of French pride. He was also charged with misuse of public funds.
  • The collapse of the world’s oldest travel operator Thomas Cook has led to the largest peacetime repatriation operation in UK history. The UK government chartered dozens of flights to bring home tens of thousands of holidaymakers stranded abroad. The 178-year-old firm fell into liquidation after failing to secure funding to save the business.
  • Ericsson to pay US$1.2 billion in penalties over ethics breaches in China, Vietnam, Indonesia, Kuwait, Djibouti, and Saudi Arabia. The Sweden-based telecommunications maker has been assisting US authorities in investigations since 2013.

Middle East

  • Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin has charged incumbent Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with forming a coalition government. The former has asked for both Netanyahu and his political rival Benny Gantz to set aside differences to form a unity government. If both leading parties fail to form a government, Israel may face a much unwanted third election.
  • Afghans headed to the polls last Saturday (Sept 28) for its fourth presidential election since the fall of the Taliban in 2001. The elections were held amidst a resurgence in Taliban attacks and fraud allegations. Fourteen candidates have put their names on the ballot paper, but most political analysts see it coming down to between incumbent President Ashraf Ghani and his former deputy Abdullah Abdullah.
  • A British-flagged oil tanker has been released after being held by Iran for more than two months. The initial detention of the vessel was widely seen as a tit-for-tat move by Iranian authorities, following the seizure of an Iranian tanker suspected of shipping oil to Syria British authorities in Gibraltar.
  • Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan proposes a “safe zone” in northern Syria, to house three million refugees which will eventually allow them to return to their home country. This is in a bid to ease the refugee burden and push the Kurdish militia away from Turkey’s southern border.

Africa

  • Prince Harry and his wife Meghan began their first overseas tour since the birth of their child in South Africa. The Duke and Duchess of Sussex denounced violence against women during the visit. The Prince also paid an “emotional” visit to a former Angola minefield where his mother, the late Princess Diana, walked 22 years earlier to spread awareness on the plight of those affected by mines.
  • More than 300 male students were found chained and sexually abused in a Nigeria Islamic boarding school. The students were found to have been tortured and kept in “the most debasing and inhumane conditions.” The school had been operating for a decade and took in students from parents who wanted their children to learn the Koran and rehabilitate from drug abuse and other ailments.
  • Egypt’s Tahrir Square was put into lockdown following fresh protests against President Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi. The President’s supporters also took to the streets in a counter-demonstration movement. Rights groups have claimed nearly 2000 have been arrested in the government’s attempt to quell unrest.
  • Former Zimbabwe leader Robert Mugabe was buried in a low-key ceremony in his hometown on Zvimba. The private ceremony saw about 200 people in attendance, as the family snubbed national plans to have him buried at the National Heroes Acre.
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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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