Sun. Oct 13th, 2019

Thousands have taken part in unplanned protests in Hong Kong after the territory's government announced a face mask ban. | Sky News

Lam activates emergency powers, Johnson proposes Brexit delay, Zambia to tax Netflix

North America & Canada

  • Texts show how US officials worked to prod the Ukrainian president into opening a public inquiry into President Trump’s leading opponent, Joe Biden. The messages, released by congressional Democrats, emerge as Mr Trump faces an impeachment inquiry over the matter. US law bans soliciting foreign help for electoral purposes. But Mr Trump denies any wrongdoing.
  • US House Democrats have subpoenaed the White House for documents relating to the impeachment inquiry into the President. Donald Trump says he would not cooperate until the House of Representatives votes to approve the investigation.
  • The US unemployment rate has fallen to a 50-year low, possibly easing recession worries after recent weak economic data. The Labour Department figures showed that the rate fell to 3.5 per cent in September from 3.7 per cent, with the economy adding 136,000 jobs last month. However, wage growth was unchanged and manufacturing jobs fell in September.
  • In its latest 15-year-battle over illegal subsidies for planemakers Airbus and rival Boeing, the US has been given the go-ahead from the World Trade Organisation to impose tariffs on $7.5bn (£6.1bn) of goods it imports from the EU. This ruling meant that tariffs on EU goods ranging from aircraft to cheese, olives and jumpers will be imposed from Oct 18. Brussels has threatened to retaliate similarly against US goods.
  • US President Donald Trump suggested shooting migrants in the legs to slow them down, according to a new book. The book says Mr Trump suggested extreme methods of deterring migrants from crossing the southern border. They included building an electrified and spiked border wall, and a snake or alligator-infested moat. Calling the claims “fake news”, Mr Trump tweeted: “I may be tough on border security, but not that tough.”
  • Hackers that appear to be linked to Iran’s government have targeted the 2020 US presidential election, according to tech company Microsoft. The group attacked more than 200 email accounts, some of which belonged to people associated with “a US presidential campaign”. Sources have said the target was President Donald Trump’s re-election campaign. Iran has not yet publicly commented on the allegations while a spokesman for the Trump campaign said it had no indication it had been targeted.
  • The United States has reopened its embassy in Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu, nearly three decades after it was shut as the Horn of Africa nation plunged into civil war.

Latin America

  • A 60-day state of emergency has been declared by Ecuador’s President Lenín Moreno after protests erupted over cuts to fuel subsidies. Mr Moreno said he will “not negotiate with criminals” and he will also not reverse his decision to scrap fuel subsidies which have been in place for four decades. The elimination of the fuel subsidies, introduced in the 1970s, are part of Mr Moreno’s plan to shore up Ecuador’s flagging economy and ease its debt burden.
  • US prosecutors say jailed Mexican drug lord Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán gave $1m (£810,000) to the brother of the Honduran president, Juan Antonio Hernández. The bribe was meant to reach the country’s leader but the president has since disputed the claims to be “100% false, absurd and ridiculous”. President Hernández – whom protesters deride as a “narco-dictator – was re-elected to a second term in 2017 in polls which his opponents said were fraudulent.
  • In an unexpected U-turn, Mercedes Aráoz, who was named “acting president” by Peru’s Congress has resigned just hours after being sworn in. The former vice-president’s swearing-in was an act of defiance by lawmakers angry at the dissolution of Congress by President Martín Vizcarra last Monday (Sept 30). Despite the constitutional crisis, Peru remained largely calm. Following Ms Aráoz’s resignation, Mr Vizcarra appears to be firmly back in charge.

Asia

  • President Xi Jinping said “no force” can shake the Chinese nation in a speech last Tuesday (Oct 1) to mark the opening of celebrations for the 70th anniversary of Communist Party rule in Beijing. In his speech, Xi said China “must adhere” to the one country, two systems policy governing Hong Kong and “maintain the long-term prosperity and stability” of the city. He also called for the “peaceful development” of relations with Taiwan – the self-governed island that Beijing considers a renegade province – but said China should “continue to fight for the full reunification of the country.”
  • An Indonesian journalist, Veby Mega Indah, has been left permanently blinded in her right eye by a rubber bullet that is said to have been fired by police during unrest in Hong Kong. She was covering ongoing protests in the Chinese territory on Sunday when the bullet hit the protective glasses that she was wearing.
  • Thousands have taken part in unplanned protests in Hong Kong after the territory’s government announced a face mask ban, which came into effect at midnight last Saturday (Oct 5). Chief executive Carrie Lam invoked a colonial-era emergency law in a bid to quell months of anti-government unrest.
  • Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said last Friday (Oct 4) that Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam should resign over the city’s increasingly violent pro-democracy protests and warned China would take “harsh action” to end the demonstrations.
  • A Sri Lankan court has dismissed a case seeking the cancellation of the citizenship of presidential hopeful Gotabaya Rajapaksa, clearing the way for him to register as a candidate in elections next month. He is a hero to many Sinhalese, who are Buddhist and make up about 75 per cent of Sri Lanka’s 22 million people, over his role in ending a 26-year civil war in 2009.
  • Pakistan is slated to repay China more than double the amount it owes the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in the next three years, as loans racked-up to boost foreign exchange reserves and bridge a financing gap become due. It owes $6.7 billion to China, and $2.8 billion to IMF in the same period.

Europe

  • Anti-terror investigators have taken over the inquiry into the killing of four police employees at the police headquarters by a colleague in Paris last Thursday (Oct 3). A motive is unclear, but investigators say new information justifies a terror probe. The country will also take steps to set up two task forces to make proposals by the end of the year to improve screening at the Paris police department intelligence services and at anti-terrorism intelligence services.
  • Former Conservative leadership hopeful Rory Stewart is quitting as an MP to run for London mayor as an independent candidate. Mr Stewart, who was expelled from the Tories in the Commons with 20 other Brexit rebels, remained a party member. “The way to really make change in the modern world is intensely local – through being a mayor, not through being a member of Parliament,” he said. The London mayoral election will be held in May next year.
  • UK prime minister Boris Johnson will send a letter to the EU asking for a Brexit delay if no deal is agreed by Oct 19, according to government papers submitted to a Scottish court. The document was revealed as campaigners sought a ruling forcing the PM to comply with the law. But the prime minister said the UK would still be leaving on 31 October, deal or no deal, “but no delay”. The so-called Benn Act requires the government to request an extension to the Oct 31 Brexit deadline if a deal has not been signed off by Parliament by Oct 19.
  • Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky plans to pull Ukrainian troops back along the front line in the east if Russian-backed rebels reciprocate. Such a pull-back has already happened in one frontline village. He also said he was hoping for another major prisoner swap with Russia, “literally next week”. Large parts of the Donbas region were seized by the Russian-backed separatists in April 2014, after Russia captured and annexed Ukraine’s Crimea region.

Middle East

  • The death toll from ongoing anti-government protests in Iraq has risen to almost 100, according to the country’s parliamentary human rights commission. The unrest entered its fifth day last Saturday (Oct 5), with five people killed in the latest clashes in Baghdad. Demonstrators are taking a stand against unemployment, poor public services and corruption. On Sunday (Oct 6), Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi’s cabinet issued a series of reforms after an “extraordinary” session overnight in response to the sweeping anti-government rallies.
  • Egypt’s parliamentary speaker has sparked outrage online after praising Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler’s infrastructure projects. Ali Abdel Aal made the comments while defending Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi’s development plans. Mr Abdel Aal has since said his words were taken “out of context”.
  • Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is facing a series of final hearings before the attorney-general decides on whether to charge him with corruption. He is alleged to have accepted gifts and dispensed favours to try to get more positive press coverage but has since denied any wrongdoing. A final decision is expected to be reached by the end of December.
  • A vigil has been held in Istanbul for Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who was murdered there one year ago. A prominent critic of Saudi Arabia’s government, he was killed inside the kingdom’s consulate in the Turkish city by a team of Saudi agents. His fiancée Hatice Cengiz told the vigil she was still seeking justice.
  • Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has warned that oil prices may soar if the world does not act to deter Iran. He said failure to act could embolden Iran and lead to war, which he said would ruin the global economy. The prince was speaking after an attack on oil facilities which he blames on Tehran. Iran said the remarks would “bring [the Saudis] nothing but shame”.
  • Seven people have been injured in a “heartbreaking” shelling attack at a Syrian healthcare centre run by a Manchester-based charity. The charity run in Denton, believe the attack was deliberate, adding the violence was “intensifying”. The facility is the largest in the UK that aids victims of the civil war.
  • Yemen’s Houthi rebels have unilaterally released 290 detainees as part of a UN peace initiative – the International Committee of the Red Cross says. The UN special envoy for Yemen said he hoped the Houthis’ step would lead to further releases by both sides. A prisoner swap was one of three elements of an agreement between the warring parties that was brokered by the UN in Sweden’s capital, Stockholm, in December.

Africa

  • Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari has described the recent outbreak of xenophobic violence in South Africa as an “embarrassment to the continent”. The president, who is on a state visit to South Africa, made the comments during a meeting with Nigerians living there, according to his official Twitter account. Nigerian-owned businesses, among others, were targeted in a bout of violence last month.
  • A proposal by Zambia’s government to impose tax on video streaming service Netflix has sparked a row in the country. They are concerned that while mainstream international broadcast companies pay taxes, online companies get to broadcast their content for free. Last year, the information ministry announced a new tariff on calls made on social media apps but it was not implemented.
  • Maurice Kamto, Cameroon’s main opposition leader, has walked free from prison nine months after his arrest for leading protests against an election result he had denounced as fraudulent. A military court in the country’s capital, Yaoundé, ordered the former presidential candidate’s release last Saturday (Oct 5) at the behest of long-time President Paul Biya, who is under intense international pressure over a sweeping crackdown on opposition parties.
  • Presidential candidate Kais Saied says he has stopped campaigning before Tunisia’s runoff vote as it would have created an unfair advantage over his jailed opponent, media magnate Nabil Karoui. Saied said he wanted “to remove the ambiguity related to the lack of equal opportunities between the two candidates”.
  • Ugandan pop star-turned-leading opposition politician Bobi Wine, has denounced the government’s move to outlaw the civilian use of red berets, a signature symbol of his People Power movement.
  • Uganda’s foreign ministry has condemned the months of pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong, saying in a statement that they had become “radical and violent”.
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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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