North America and Canada
- The House Oversight and Reform Committee demanded documents from the Department of Homeland Security last Monday (Dec 23), to investigate the death of a teenage detainee, who had been sent to a holding cell despite being sick with the flu and fever. Customs and Border Protection officials have yet to explain why they disregarded the recommendation of a nurse to hospitalise him instead. The detainee, Mr Hernandez Vazquez, 16, is the sixth migrant child to die in federal custody during Trump’s presidency.
- Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski has voiced concern over the Republican Party’s stance on President Trump’s impeachment process. Following Trump’s impeachment by the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has pledged to work with the White House to prevent Trump’s removal from office, despite the Senate’s supposed role as an impartial judge.
- Last Thursday (Dec 26), US President Donald Trump warned Russia, Syria, and Iran against killing civilians in Syria’s Idlib province.
- Mexico submitted a complaint to the International Court of Justice last Thursday (Dec 26), claiming that Bolivia is violating diplomatic norms by surrounding the Mexican embassy in La Paz with Bolivian security forces. Responding to the complaint, Bolivian Interior Minister Arturo Murillo accused Mexico of protecting wanted criminals within the embassy, referring to several of deposed Bolivian President Evo Morales’ allies who were granted asylum.
- Argentina’s centre-left government approved last Monday (Dec 23) a package of emergency economic measures in an attempt to ‘attend to the needs of the most vulnerable sectors and to spark growth’. The measures include tax hikes on foreign currency purchases, agricultural exports, and car sales. Argentinian President Alberto Fernandez says the tax hikes will only affect the upper and middle classes.
- Onshore corporate defaults in China have hit US$18.5 billion during the final weeks of the year, up from the previous record of $17.4 billion last year. The defaults are a result of the government tightening control over the financial system, and offering fewer bailouts for bonds.
- China announced the successful launch of the Long March 5 rocket last Friday (Dec 27), sending a communication satellite into Earth’s high orbit. The launch paves the way for China’s ambitious space program, including a plan to land an unmanned exploration of Mars in 2020.
- Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan arrived in Islamabad last Thursday (Dec 26) to meet Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan to discuss bilateral ties and regional developments.
- Amid protests over the Citizenship Amendment Act, the state of Uttar Pradesh in northern India has demanded millions of rupees from more than 200 people and threatened to confiscate their property as a penalty for damage done to public property. Yogi Adityanath, Uttar Pradesh’s Chief Minister, has vowed revenge on the protesters.
- Indonesian President Joko Widodo symbolically kicked off his B30 biodiesel policy last week. B30 biodiesel refers to a biodiesel blend that contains at least 30 per cent bio-content. The policy is intended to save money in foreign exchange expenditure, and move towards a more balanced budget. Indonesia is a major producer and exporter of palm oil, which the EU has begun to phase out.
- President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen questioned British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s refusal to extend Brexit negotiations beyond 2020, citing a multitude of issues that she argues will require more time to resolve. Following Johnson’s re-election at the start of the month, the UK has approved a deal that will allow it to leave by Jan 31, but remain within the EU’s customs union and single market until the end of 2020, with an option to stay for another two years.
- Italian ski resort Pejo 3000 is endeavouring to become the first in Europe to ban plastic after discovering that a nearby glacier contained a significant amount of microplastics.
- Russia has begun testing a national internet system that would function as an alternative to the World Wide Web, in an attempt to ‘prevent adverse consequences of global disconnection from the global network’. Russian President Vladimir Putin also declared that this was part of the nation’s sovereignty, that Russia would have resources to call upon if it was cut off from the world’s internet.
- Following the indictment of its leader Benjamin Netanyahu, the Likud Party held party elections to determine their party leader, which Netanyahu won. Netanyahu secured 72.5 per cent of the vote against his opponent Gideon Saar, a former minister in Netanyahu’s cabinet. Though Saar conceded defeat and backed Netanyahu for the upcoming general elections, he had previously warned that Likud would not win with Netanyahu at its head.
- Morrocan YouTuber Mohamed Sekkaki has been sentenced to four years imprisonment and a fine of about US$4000 after insulting King Mohammed VI and calling Moroccans ‘donkeys’.
- Internet services were disrupted in several parts of Iran last Wednesday (Dec 25). An Iranian news agency reported that internet service disruptions were ordered by the government in an attempt to curb protests over various issues, including increased gasoline prices. The Iranian government, as well as Iran’s three mobile operators, has refuted the claims, and communications ministry spokesman Jaman Hadian has denounced the claims as fake news.
- Amid rising tensions in the Middle East, China and Iran have announced their plans to conduct naval drills in the Gulf of Oman alongside Russia, starting last Friday (Dec 27). China has announced its intentions to send its Xining guided-missile destroyer, a ship nicknamed the “carrier killer”. The Gulf of Oman controls access to the Strait of Hormuz, where 20 per cent of the world’s oil supply passes through.
- Kuwait has agreed to implement an agreement with Saudi Arabia that clearly demarcates the borders between the two states and enables both countries to continue producing oil from the Khafji and Wafra oil fields, which have not been in operation since 2014.
- Sudan’s transitional authorities reached a peace deal with the largest rebel faction last Tuesday (Dec 24). The deal opens the way for further peace negotiations with other groups, especially in provinces far from the Sudanese capital of Khartoum. Sudanese authorities are concerned about the budget of the military, which takes up the bulk of the government’s budget.
- South Africa published a long-anticipated draft of oil and gas legislation that will give the state a 20 per cent carried interest in exploration and production rights, with the aim of increasing industrial development. The policy also calls for at least a 10 per cent participating interest by black partners and the establishment of a Petroleum Agency, according to a draft published last Tuesday (Dec 24) by the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy in the Government Gazette.
- Following US Ambassador to Zambia Daniel Foote’s criticism of a Zambian court’s jailing of a homosexual couple, Zambian Home Affairs Minister Stephen Kampyongo said that the ambassador had crossed a line. The US has since recalled the ambassador.
- Zambia’s Energy Regulation Board has approved the state power utility’s plan to raise electricity tariffs from Wednesday (Jan 1). Zesco Limited will be allowed to raise tariffs for consumers, in order to help the power utility operate. Zesco has been facing financial problems with regards to its profitability, liquidity, solvency, and efficiency.