Tue. Nov 12th, 2019

Seen through a burning street barricade, an anti-government demonstrator waves a Chilean flag in Santiago, Chile. Fresh protests and attacks on businesses erupted in Chile despite President Sebastián Piñera's replacement of eight important Cabinet ministers with more centrist figures, and his attempts to assure the country that he had heard calls for greater equality and improved social services. | Photo Credit: AP Photo/Matias Delacroix

Spain likely to host climate change talks after Chile pulled out, India set to build world’s largest facial recognition system, and far-right extremism in Germany led to ‘Nazi Emergency’

North America and Canada

  • US President Donald Trump has ridiculed Beto O’Rourke just hours after the Democratic presidential hopeful ended his campaign. Mr O’Rourke, a former Texas congressman, was highly critical of Mr Trump after a mass shooting in his hometown of El Paso in August. But last Friday (Nov 1), the former decided to quit the race for the White House as his campaign did not have “the means to move forward successfully”. Other Democratic frontrunners tweeted their tributes to Mr O’Rourke after he stood aside.
  • Facebook-owned WhatsApp has filed a lawsuit against Israel’s NSO Group, alleging the firm was behind cyber-attacks that infected devices with malicious software. It accuses the company of sending malware to roughly 1,400 mobile phones for the purposes of surveillance. Users affected included journalists, human rights activists, political dissidents, and diplomats. NSO Group, which makes software for surveillance, disputed the allegations.
  • The owner of Chinese video-sharing service TikTok is undergoing a national security review of its purchase of the Musical.ly app. ByteDance bought Musical.ly for $1bn (£773m) in 2017 but the deal was being probed because it had not been cleared by a US body that scrutinises acquisitions. TikTok has rebuffed the claims of Chinese government interference over content and said it “does not remove content” based on Chinese sensitivities.
  • US President Donald Trump has announced he will make Florida his permanent home instead of Trump Tower in New York. He said he had been badly treated by New York’s political leaders, despite having paid millions of dollars in taxes. Both the New York state governor and New York City mayor have welcomed the news. Florida does not have a state income tax or inheritance tax.
  • US employment has been more resilient than expected in October despite the impact of strike action at General Motors. Companies added 128,000 new jobs, ahead of a forecast rise of 85,000, during a month when thousands of workers walked out at the carmaker. The unemployment rate edged up slightly to 3.6 per cent from 3.5 per cent in September, which had been the lowest rate since 1969.
  • Facebook says it will fact-check ads posted by one political candidate in California, after previously saying it would not do so for politicians. To test the policy, Californian Adriel Hampton registered as a candidate and tried to run a misleading ad. But Facebook blocked the ad and said Mr Hampton had “registered as a candidate to get around our policies”.

Latin America

  • Spain has offered to host COP25 in Madrid after Chile pulled out of hosting two major international summits – Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation and United Nations (UN) climate change conference – due to anti-government protests. The Spanish government said it considered multilateral action on climate change to be a priority for the UN.
  • Brazilian officials suspect a Greek-flagged tanker, Delta Tankers Ltd, was the source of an oil spill that has stained about 2,500 km (1,553 miles) of Brazil’s coastline. Delta Tankers said they did not accept blame for the spill and the tanker’s voyage ended “uneventfully”. About 2,000 tonnes of thick sludge have been collected, but a huge clean-up effort is continuing.
  • At least two people have been killed in Bolivia in clashes between supporters and opponents of President Evo Morales, the government says. The two men died in the town of Montero in eastern Santa Cruz province. The Organisation of American States will start an audit of the results on Thursday to decide if the polls should go into a second round. Observers from Mexico, Paraguay and Spain have been invited to monitor the process.

Asia

  • UN Secretary General António Guterres has warned Asia to quit its “addiction” to coal in a bid to tackle climate change. Citing a study by Climate Central, a US-based non-profit news organisation, Mr Guterres said the report found Asian countries like China, Bangladesh, India and Vietnam to be at particular risk of climate-driven flooding.
  • Vietnam says it “strongly condemns human trafficking,” after UK police said they believed 39 people found dead in a lorry were all Vietnamese. The authorities are working together to identify the bodies, which were found in Essex on Oct 23. Several arrests have been made in connection with the tragedy.
  • North Korea has fired two unidentified “projectiles” into the sea and the objects “appeared to be ballistic missiles”. If confirmed as a missile test, it would be North Korea’s 12th such launch this year. Earlier this month, North Korea test-fired a new type of missile which is thought could also be launched from a submarine. The South Korean military said it would maintain its readiness to track and monitor further launches.
  • The United States and South Korea will suspend a planned air-power military drill for the second straight year to avoid increasing tensions with North Korea while denuclearisation talks between Washington and Pyongyang are stalled. Korean and American officials will make the final decision on the suspension when they meet in mid-November. Both countries will instead have their respective drills independently “to confirm military readiness”.
  • Beijing said yesterday (Nov 3) that it is  “ready to work” with Southeast Asian nations on a code of conduct in the flashpoint South China Sea, where it is accused of bullying fellow claimants and building up military installations. The agreement, set to be finished in 2021, will set out conduct guidelines for the sea along with conflict resolution parameters.
  • This Friday, the Indian government will name the companies that will help it build what could be the world’s largest facial recognition system. Once it is set up, India’s National Automated Facial Recognition System will provide a centralised database for police forces across its 28 states. Authorities will be able to identify people – including criminals, missing children and dead bodies – by matching their images against a database of images. That database will draw on images from existing records of images of prisoners, photos in passports, and “any other image database” with any entity.
  • The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has filed a lawsuit against Alphabet’s Google, accusing it of misleading smartphone users about how it collected and used personal location data, advancing a global crackdown on the world’s biggest tech firms. A Google spokesman said that the firm would defend the matter, that it was reviewing the commission’s allegations and that it would continue to engage with the regulator.

Europe

  • Dresden, the capital of Saxony in eastern Germany has declared a “Nazi emergency”, saying it has a serious problem with the far-right. Long viewed as a bastion of the far-right and the birthplace of the anti-Islam Pegida movement, local officials have a resolution saying more needs to be done to tackle the issue. The country’s governing Christian Democrats were among those to reject the resolution, suggesting the resolution to be an “intended provocation” but it also hopes to “strengthen the institutions that are best suited to combating politically motivated violence”.
  • The government has called a halt to shale gas extraction – or fracking – in England amid fears about earthquakes. The indefinite suspension comes after a report by the Oil and Gas Authority (OGA) said it was not possible to predict the probability or size of tremors caused by the practice. Business Secretary Andrea Leadsom said it may be temporary but Labour, Liberal Democrats and the Green Party want a permanent ban.
  • UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson is facing renewed calls to release a report assessing the threat posed by Russia to the country’s democratic processes. Compiled by the Parliamentary Intelligence and Security Committee, it includes evidence from UK intelligence services concerning Russian attempts to influence the outcome of the 2016 EU referendum and 2017 general election. The report was finalised in March 2019.
  • UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has rejected the suggestion from Nigel Farage and Donald Trump that he should work with the Brexit Party during the election. The Tory leader told the BBC he was “always grateful for advice” but he would not enter into election pacts. The “difficulty” of doing deals with “any other party” was that it “simply risks putting (Labour Leader) Jeremy Corbyn into Number 10”, he added.
  • Thousands of people living in “abysmal” refugee camps on two Greek islands are “on the edge of catastrophe”, said the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights. Hours later, Greece’s parliament passed a bill to fast-track deportations where refugees would be protected but Greece’s gates would not be thrown open to everyone. The controversial asylum law aims to curb the rising number of migrants arriving on Greece’s shores.
  • North Macedonia’s Prime Minister Zoran Zaev was left grasping thin air as the prospect of EU accession talks was snatched away, with France’s Emmanuel Macron playing the part of antagonist-in-chief. While the French veto did not exactly leave North Macedonia’s leader lying on the ground in a crumpled heap, it did make a mockery of his assertion that changing the country’s name would open the door to accession. The EU’s snub sent a grim message across the Balkans – to would-be members Kosovo and Bosnia as well as Serbia and Montenegro, which are both many years into membership negotiations.
  • A law introducing new controls on the internet has come into force in Russia amid concerns that it may be used by the government to silence its critics. In theory, the law gives officials wide-ranging powers to restrict traffic on the Russian web. Critics fear the Kremlin will try to create an internet firewall similar to that in China.

Middle East

  • One-hundred-and-fifty delegates representing Syria’s government, opposition, and various sectors of civil society are meeting in Geneva to try to draft a new constitution. The UN says the talks will be “Syrian-owned and Syrian-led”, and could pave the way for reforms and elections, thus leading to peace negotiations. The civil war has claimed more than 370,000 lives and created 5.6 million refugees.
  • At least 13 people were killed by a car bomb in the northern Syrian border town of Tal Abyad, and at least 20 others were wounded by the blast last Saturday (Nov 2). Turkish troops and Turkey-backed rebels last month took control of Tal Abyad and other border towns from Kurdish forces, after US troops – who were protecting the Kurds – pulled out. Syrian Kurdish militia group, the People’s Protection Units (YPG), was accused of planting the bomb but no group immediately claimed responsibility.
  • The jihadist group Islamic State (IS) has for the first time confirmed the death of its leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, via messaging service Telegram, and named his successor as Abu Ibrahim al-Hashemi al-Qurashi. The former leader fled into a tunnel and killed himself with a suicide vest after US special forces attacked his compound. IS did not provide many details about the new leader, but it did describe him as a “prominent figure in jihad”.
  • Lebanon’s president has asked the cabinet to continue in a caretaker capacity, after PM Saad Hariri resigned in response to mass protests. The country has been paralysed for almost two weeks by protests demanding an end to corruption, an effective government, and economic reforms. A senior official said Mr Hariri was ready to try to form a new government if he was allowed to appoint technocrats and quickly implement the reforms needed to resolve Lebanon’s economic crisis.
  • Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi will resign if political parties can agree on his replacement, the president has said, as mass protests continue. President Barham Saleh is also drafting a new election law that will allow early parliamentary polls to be held. Tens of thousands of people have taken part in two waves of protests this month to demand more jobs, an end to corruption, and better services. More than 250 have been killed in clashes with security forces.
  • Saudi Arabia’s Aramco started its listing process yesterday (Nov 3). Aramco’s stock market listing was delayed earlier this month in part after difficulties attracting big investors. Its initial public offering has had several false starts. Crown Prince Mohammed, the de facto ruler of the kingdom, wants a valuation of $2tn (£1.55tn) for the firm. However, bankers have put the valuation at between $1.2tn and $1.5tn.

Africa

  • Describing it as a “terrorist attack”, the Malian army said militants in north-east Mali have killed 49 soldiers in an attack on a military post, making it one of the deadliest assaults of the past decade. No group has said it was behind the assault in Indelimane in the Menaka region.
  • Ethiopian running legend Haile Gebrselassie said fake news shared on Facebook was behind the violence in which 78 people died after an influential activist from the Oromo ethnic group, Jawar Mohammed, said the authorities were endangering his life by removing his bodyguards. Some fake videos had been shared, including one of a claim that a local official was arming young men. Facebook has not responded to Gebrselassie’s accusations, but the company has a policy of “working to fight the spread of false news”.
  • Eritrea says it has uncovered evidence of a 2011 US plot to overthrow the government in Asmara. It accuses Israel of helping to demonise the country in the eyes of the rest of the world. There is no evidence that there was a conspiracy and neither has the government released any documents to support its claim. The US has been a critic of Eritrea’s human rights record describing it as an “authoritarian regime”.
  • Tens of thousands of demonstrators have converged on the streets of Algiers as Algeria marked the 65th anniversary of its war of independence from France last Friday (Nov 1). Protesters are demanding a “new revolution” and oppose the government’s proposed election next month. The demonstrations were some of the largest since protests began in February.
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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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