Tue. Nov 12th, 2019

Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg addresses world leaders at the start of the 2019 Climate Action Summit in New York. | Photo by: EPA-EFE

China flexes economic muscles on political issues, climate activist Thunberg is denied a Nobel Prize, and Trump comes under fire in impeachment and campaign finance trials

North America & Canada

  • Polls published by leading news outlets suggested that a majority of the American voters support the impeachment inquiry into US President Donald Trump that was launched by the Democrats late last month.
  • Two businessmen have been charged for violating campaign finance laws and lying in order to donate money to Trump’s presidential campaign in 2016. Congress’ witness is Fiona Hill, a former aide to Trump, who has overseen US foreign policy with Ukraine. Trump has denied knowledge of the affair.
  • Trade talks between China and the US have resumed, and Trump has hinted at future talks. Negotiators have agreed on issues such as currency and copyright protections.
  • Microsoft has accused Iranian hackers and the Iranian government of hacking attempts directed at the 2020 US elections. Microsoft has said that the hackers have attempted to identify email accounts of government officials and journalists covering the election.
  • Judges in three states – California, New York, Washington – have issued injunctions against Trump’s immigrant policy rule last Friday (11 Oct). The rule states that legal immigrants who are unable to support themselves, and are likely to be a burden to the government will not be issued green cards.
  • The acting head of US Homeland Security, Kevin McAleenan, has resigned after six months in the post. In a tweet, President Donald Trump said Mr McAleenan wanted to spend more time with his family. The fourth person to serve as the head of Homeland Security during Mr Trump’s tenure, his replacement will be named this week.
  • Mastercard, Visa, eBay and payments firm Stripe have pulled out of Facebook’s embattled cryptocurrency project, Libra. Their move, first reported in the Financial Times, follows the withdrawal of PayPal. Regulators have raised multiple concerns over Libra, including the risk it may be used for money laundering.

Latin America

  • Trump has declared his support for Brazil’s entry into the Organisation of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). This comes despite a letter by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo only supporting Argentina and Romania joining. Pompeo later agreed with President Trump, and welcomed Brazil’s efforts for economic reform. Membership in the OECD acts as a badge of honour for countries to show that they have economically prospered.
  • Incumbent Argentinian president Mauricio Macri’s hopes to be re-elected at the end of the year were dashed after he lost an August primary and pollsters predicted a landslide victory for opposition leader Alberto Fernandez. Since then, Macri has been forced to announce plans to delay debt repayments, impose capital controls to protect the peso and stop the country’s foreign exchange reserves from draining further.
  • Bolivian President Evo Morales, who is facing tough competition from his opponents,  defies term limits to fight for his fourth consecutive term. He has been the longest serving left-leaning leader in Latin America.
  • Representatives of Ecuador’s government and the country’s indigenous groups held their first direct talks yesterday (Oct 13) in a bid to end days of violent protests. Protesters are demanding the return of fuel subsidies which the government scrapped as part of austerity measures.

Asia

  • The Hong Kong Police have stocked up and upgraded their equipment to better deal with the ongoing protests. Protesters continue to fill the streets, resulting in the cancellation of the Hong Kong Harbour Swim. This has also prompted a hotel to suggest that it would be difficult to proceed with their annual Bierfest. Protesters also gathered in Tsim Sha Tsui last Thursday (Oct 10) to show solidarity with Taiwan on the 108th anniversary of the founding of the Republic of China.
  • Hong Kong’s pro-democracy camp seems to be splintering, with some protesters urging others to dial down the violence and destructive tactics. Others have called for the targeting of businesses seen to support the government by means of boycotting and vandalism. Some protesters have stated that they do not want violence to delay upcoming district council elections late next month, with activists hoping to win seats.
  • Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam has cancelled a meeting with US Senator Ted Cruz. Cruz called the cancellation a “sign of weakness… and fear of the protests in the streets of Hong Kong”. He voiced support for the Hong Kong Human Rights Act. The act, if passed in the US Congress, includes measures like annual reviews of the Chinese territory’s special economic status and the imposition of sanctions on those who undermine its autonomy.
  • China has expressed anger with several organisations’ support of the Hong Kong protesters over the past week. Daryl Morey, the team manager of American basketball team Houston Rockets, was criticised for tweeting an image that reads “Fight for freedom. Stand with Hong Kong”. He has since apologised but China state broadcaster CCTV and Tencent will not air the games as previously planned. American tech giant Apple has also pulled a controversial application, HKmap.live, from its store. The app was used by protesters to track and ambush police, and threaten public safety. Gaming company Blizzard has also suspended a Hong Kong gamer who called for the liberation of Hong Kong.
  • Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi concluded a summit with Chinese President Xi Jinping last Saturday (Oct 12). Both leaders identified terrorism as a common challenge they have to deal with. This comes amid rising tensions over India’s handling of the Jammu-Kashmir region, which is claimed by both Pakistan and India. 
  • Malaysian police arrested seven people last Thursday (Oct 10), including two Democratic Action Party (DAP) assemblymen, for links to the now-defunct Sri Lankan Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, commonly known as the Tamil Tigers. Malaysia considers the group a terrorist organisation. DAP secretary-general Lim Eng Guan has stated that he believes the assemblymen are innocent.
  • For the second time, the Dewan Rakyat (lower house of the Malaysian parliament) has approved a bill that would scrap the Anti-Fake News Act (AFNA), after it was rejected by the Dewan Negara (upper house) last year. The AFNA was passed under the previous Barisan Nasional Government, led by Najib Razak, who has since been indicted on corruption charges. The incumbent Pakatan Harapan government, led by Dr Mahathir, promised to repeal it if he was elected.

Europe

  • A man has confessed to an attack on a synagogue in Germany on the holiest day of the Jewish Calendar, Yom Kippur, last Wednesday (Oct 9). The attack has resulted in the deaths of two people. The man has also admitted to having a far-right and anti-Semitic motive behind the attack; during a hearing with an investigating judge. Prosecutors say it is too early to say if he had accomplices and whether he was part of any far-right group.
  • Romanian Prime Minister Viorica Dăncilă has been defeated in a vote of no confidence, ahead of elections due next year. President Klaus Iohannis will hold talks with parties to choose a new government.
  • EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier and British Brexit Secretary Steve Barclay have issued a joint statement after their meeting, saying that they could “see a pathway to a possible deal” for Brexit before the extended deadline of Oct 31.
  • Extinction Rebellion, an environmental pressure group, set up a barricade outside the BBC’s New Broadcasting House last Friday (Oct 11). The group was protesting against the company’s lack of coverage on climate change.

Middle East

  • Kurdish forces announced a deal with the Syrian government on yesterday (Oct 13). Following the US withdrawal and Turkish advance, Kurdish forces have been forced to retreat, prompting them to make a deal with the Russian-backed Syrian government. This potentially gives Moscow and Damascus a free hand in the region. It also provides Iran with some breathing space in a region otherwise dominated by the US and its allies.
  • Iranian foreign minister Javad Zarif has criticised the US for economic aggression against Iran. He was referring to the fresh sanctions that the US announced after Saudi Arabia accused Iran of attacking its oil facilities, despite Houthi rebels claiming responsibility. Zarif warned that if both nations proceeded with military action, there would be an “all out war”. However, he is willing to participate in an impartial international investigation into the strikes. Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan left Pakistan for Tehran on Sunday (13 Oct) to mediate talks between Iran and Saudi Arabia.
  • Iran has released Russian journalist Yulia Yuzik last Thursday (Oct 10), claiming that she was detained over a visa issue as opposed to suspicions of espionage though Yuzik was also sent back to Russia. Tehran and Moscow have generally had close ties, making the arrest a surprise move. 
  • The Likud party central committee swore in Benjamin Netanyahu as the Likud candidate for Prime Minister and leader of the party, though only a small part of the party was present for the vote. 

Africa

  • The World Bank has cut South Africa’s growth forecast for 2019 through to 2021, citing weak investor sentiment and lingering policy uncertainty. Analysts have predicted that with lower tax collection than planned as well as the central bank’s focus on inflation, the economy cannot be expected to improve. While President Ramaphosa has indicated a willingness to try big policy shifts, he has not been able to bring his party on board.
  • Zimbabwe has raised its average electricity tariff by 320 per cent to ramp up power supplies at a time of daily blackouts but the move will likely anger consumers already grappling with soaring inflation and stagnant wages. It is currently experiencing its worst economic crisis in 10 years, seen in triple-digit inflation, 18-hour power cuts and shortages of US dollars, medicines and fuel that have evoked the dark days of the 2008 hyperinflation under the late President Robert Mugabe.
  • Ethiopian President Abiy Ahmed was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize last Friday (Oct 11) for his efforts in ending the Eritrean-Ethiopian conflict, and conclusively bringing an end to their border disputes. Other nominees for the prize included New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Arden who was lauded for her empathetic and swift response of the Christchurch attacks as well as climate activist Greta Thunberg.
  • Polls have opened for a runoff presidential election in Tunisia, where two candidates from outside the political establishment received the most votes. One of them is Nabil Karoui, a media magnate, and the other is a conservative lawyer, Kais Saied. Both are newcomers to the political scene, and have used populist policies to gain widespread support.
  • The Ghanaian government has accused nine people of a plot to overthrow the government, and formally charged them with treason. In a region characterised by instability and turbulence, Ghana has been viewed as generally stable, having been ruled democratically since 1992.
  • Mauritius’ Prime Minister Pravind Kumar Jugnauth has dissolved Parliament and called for a general election next month. Voting is scheduled for Nov 7, where Jugnauth will seek another term as the leader of the Mouvement Socialiste Militant.
  • Facebook has extended its fact-checking programme to 10 new African states.
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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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