- Haiti installed a new prime minister last Tuesday (July 20). Ariel Henry, a former neurosurgeon and Cabinet Minister, has been sworn in to replace the interim Prime Minister, Claude Joseph. Joseph was designated as prime minister after Haiti plunged into a political crisis when its late President Jovenel Moïse was assassinated on July 7. Henry has promised to form a provisional government to lead the impoverished Caribbean nation until its next election.
- Thomas Barrack, billionaire and long-time ally of former US President Donald Trump, was arrested in Los Angeles last Tuesday (July 20) for allegedly lobbying illegally for the United Arab Emirates during and after Trump’s presidential campaign in 2016. The 74-year-old founder of an investment firm who served as a key adviser for the campaign was charged with conspiracy, obstruction of justice and making multiple false statements to the Federal Bureau of Investigation during a 2019 interview.
- Speaker of the US House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, declared last Thursday (July 22) that the congressional probe of the January 6 insurrection at the United States Capitol will carry on irrespective of the presence of Republicans. Pelosi, a Democrat, calls the probe “deadly serious” work and will continue even if Republican House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy decided to withdraw all five Republican Representatives he had appointed for the probe. McCarthy called the probe a “sham process” and suggested that any Republicans that decide to participate could face consequences.
- United States Deputy Secretary of State, Wendy Sherman, visited China last weekend to meet with China’s vice minister in charge of China-US relations, Xie Feng and foreign minister and state councillor, Wang Yi in the northeastern city of Tianjin. The visit comes amidst deteriorating relations between the two great powers and the first visit of a US official to China since President Joe Biden took office in 2020. This is also the first visit since the last meeting where both US and Chinese officials held high-level talks in Anchorage, Alaska from March 18 – 19 this year.
- United States Attorney-General, Merrick Garland vowed last Thursday (July 22) that the Department of Justice will crack down on gun trafficking corridors as part of an extensive approach to combat the surge in gun violence throughout the country. This approach includes funding community intervention programmes and neighbourhood groups.
- Leftist Pedro Castillo was declared President-Elect of Peru by its National Jury of Elections last Monday (July 19). The former rural teacher and son of peasant farmers beat right-wing rival, Keiko Fujimori by just 44,000 votes in a divisive election. Castillo’s path to winning the election has proven to be challenging as he was accused of electoral fraud by his rival, daughter of the former president, Alberto Fujimori. He has been cleared of all allegations of electoral fraud by the election authority.
- Argentina unveiled a new national identity system for people who identify themselves as non-binary. President Alberto Fernández decreed that Argentinians have the right to identify themselves as gender-neutral. The new law allows anyone applying for a new ID document to select “x” for their gender instead of choosing one of the two predetermined gender options. President Fernández has been an advocate for progressive social reforms since he took office in 2019. One notable effort was the legalisation of abortion last year.
- Ecuador’s President, Guillermo Lasso declared a state of emergency in the country’s prisons last Thursday (July 22). The state of emergency came after a fight among rival gangs killed 22 inmates and injured dozens of others. Government officials said the violence began last Wednesday (July 21) at the city of Guayaquil’s main prison, the Litoral Penitentiary, and the Latacunga prison in central Ecuador.
- Head of Mexico’s Financial Intelligence Unit, Santiago Nieto, said that Mexican government officials from previous administrations spent about US$300 million (S$ 407.96 million) in government money to purchase spyware from Israeli spyware firm NSO Group from 2012 to 2018. Nieto said there appeared to be excess payments included in the spendings that may have been kickbacks for former government officials. He said it was a possible indication of government corruption on top of using an already questionable surveillance programme that targeted the media, civil society and political opposition.
- Brazilians took to the streets last Saturday (July 24) to protest against President Jair Bolsonaro. The streets of Rio De Janeiro and other cities were filled with demonstrators demanding Bolsonaro to step down due to his government’s handling of the pandemic and recent corruption allegations. Bolsonaro, a coronavirus sceptic, rejected calls to impose public health restrictions to contain the spread of the virus. Brazil has been hit hard by the pandemic with a death toll of more than 548,000, the second-highest in the world.
- Japan encountered another wave of COVID-19 infections that left its people doubtful about the safety of holding the Olympics. The first case of COVID-19 infections was detected in the athletes’ village, where 11,000 athletes will stay during the games. As a result of the event failing to receive strong public support, Tokyo 2020 sponsor Toyota withdrew commercials related to the event last Monday (July 19).
- Within a span of three days, central Henan province experienced the heaviest rainfall in 1000 years which led to severe flooding last Wednesday (July 21). Although many were pulled to safety and evacuations were conducted to relocate approximately 200,000 people to safety, casualties reported in its capital city Zhengzhou included 12 deaths in a flooded subway line and 33 deaths from the floods, while many remain missing. In light of the calamity, President Xi Jinping urged all authorities to implement flood prevention and disaster relief forces to prioritise the welfare of the people.
- The United States accused China of using “contract hackers” in a global hacking campaign last Monday (July 19). The accusation included hacking Microsoft-Exchange, an email platform widely used worldwide. The hack allegedly affected at least 30,000 organisations. Microsoft blames Chinese cyber-espionage group Hafnium for allowing hackers to invade the system. In response, China has declined all allegations last Tuesday (July 20), and says that the claims were “fabricated” and “unreasonable criticisms”.
- Australian government scientists said last Monday (July 19) that chances of the Great Barrier Reef recovering in the future are “very poor”. The reef experienced dire impacts from global warming such as mass bleaching of its corals over the last few years that has been hindering its full recovery. The United Nations cultural agency suggested placing the Great Barrier Reef on its endangered list, but with Australia’s lobbying efforts to avoid the outcome of a World Heritage downgrade, UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee decided last Friday (July 23) to give Australia more time to restore the reef’s health. Though Australia has committed A$3billion (S$3.7 billion) to do so, global efforts must also be made to curb global warming.
- Anti-coup protestors in Myanmar held demonstrations last Monday (July 19), Martyr’s Day, to commemorate their independence heroes. Since Aung San Suu Kyi’s arrest by the military in February, the activist group, Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, estimated 900 people have been killed by the military. The violent political crisis affected many industries, resulting in an estimated loss of 1.2 million jobs and a surge in COVID-19 cases. Doctors accused the military of restricting medical supplies, which caused residents to rely on self-treatment. The United Nations said last Sunday (July 18) that it would step up efforts to help Myanmar combat the COVID-19 infections.
- England lifted COVID-19 restrictions last Monday (July 19). There are now no limits to the number of people who can meet or attend events. Nightclubs have reopened, and table services will not be necessary in pubs and restaurants. Face coverings are recommended in some spaces, but not required by law. These eased restrictions only apply to England while the other devolved administrations of Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland administer their own policies regarding COVID-19.
- France rolled out its new COVID-19 compulsory health pass for access to cultural and leisure venues last Wednesday (July 21) under the direction of French President Emmanuel Macron. He declared that it is now a must for people to have health passes which were initially optional. The heath passes indicate that the bearer has either been fully vaccinated or has had a recent, negative PCR test. The health passes are compulsory when visiting leisure and cultural venues with more than 50 people. Starting from August, people will only be allowed to dine in or engage in leisure activities if they have their health passes.
- Germany’s cabinet approved a roughly 400 million Euros (SGD 672.71 million) package of immediate aid for flood victims last Wednesday (July 21). The package will be financed by both federal and state governments, of which the federal government will contribute fifty per cent. At least 171 people in Germany have perished from the deadly floods that struck the week before. Towns in other European nations such as Belgium and the Netherlands have also been heavily damaged by the floods.
- Russia successfully launched a long-delayed lab module for the International Space Station last Wednesday (July 21) that is intended to provide more room for scientific experiments for the crew. The Nauka module lifted off at night from a Russian space launch facility in Baikonur, Kazakhstan. The Nauka, also known as the Multipurpose Laboratory Module, was initially scheduled to launch in 2007 but had repeatedly been delayed by technical problems.
- Norway marked its tenth anniversary of the extremist attack last Thursday (July 22) with church bells ringing across the country in remembrance of the victims. On July 22 2011, right-wing extremist, Ander Breivik, detonated a bomb in the capital Oslo, killing eight. He then stalked teen members of the Labour Party’s youth wing on Utoya Island and killed sixty-nine people. The attack was the worst peacetime slaughter in Norwegian history. Norwegian monarch, King Harald V, apologised for not doing enough to curb the “dark forces” in society.
- An ISIS suicide bomber killed 36 people and left 60 wounded in Iraq’s Baghdad market after detonating an explosives vest last Monday (July 19). ISIS lost its last territory in Iraq in late 2017 but retained sleeper cells in remote desert and mountain areas. The suicide bombing incident thus reignited fears about ISIS’ reach. Political leaders from around the world condemned the crime and Iraqi President Barham Salih expressed determination to “uproot the hateful and cowardly terrorism”.
- Rockets landed near the presidential palace in Kabul, Afghanistan, during prayers for the Muslim festival Eid al-Adha last Tuesday (July 20). Interior ministry spokesperson Mirwais Stanekzai said three rockets landed outside the palace, and it was later revealed by Taliban spokesperson Suhail Shaheen that the Islamic State Khorasan (IS-K) were responsible for the attack. The incident heightened concerns over the Taliban’s gain in control across the country as US and NATO troops continue with their withdrawal of forces.
- Reporters Without Borders (RSF) urged Israel to suspend exports of spying technology last Wednesday (July 21) after allegations of Israel using it to target heads of state and journalists. A leaked list of 50,000 phone numbers was believed to have been chosen by Israel’s NSO Group, whose flagship programme Pegasus allowed clients from around the world to hack into mobile phones and gain private data. In response, Israel set up an inter-ministerial team to assess the allegations. A global investigation published last Sunday (July 25) revealed that Pegasus aided in the hacking but NSO rejected these claims.
- Afghanistan withdrew its ambassador and diplomats from Pakistan’s capital last Monday (July 19) following the kidnapping of the ambassador’s daughter, Silsila Alikhil. The Afghan government wanted a complete elimination of security threats and punishment of the perpetrators who were responsible for the kidnapping and torturing of Silsila Alikhil. However, Pakistan’s interior minister declared last Tuesday (July 20) that there was no evidence of the claimed abduction.
- The Taliban gained momentum in Afghanistan and intends to isolate major population centres from the Western-backed government in Kabul, according to Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman General, Mark Milley. In response, the Afghan government forces had to step up their protection for population centres and fighting is expected to escalate in the coming weeks. These signs of aggression from the Taliban started after the US and NATO agreed to withdraw their forces in exchange for the Taliban to hold peace talks with Kabul’s government.
- The abducted villagers in Zamfara state were freed by Nigerian forces last Wednesday (July 21). Since December 2020, more than 1000 people have been abducted and though most who were freed had to pay ransoms, the 100 women and children that were kidnapped on 8 June were released without having to do so. President Muhammadu Buhari has directed the military to handle the criminals in Zamfara and the neighbouring states of Kaduna and Katsina.
- Mali’s Interim President Assimi Goïta was met with an attempted stabbing last Tuesday (July 20), during prayers for Eid al-Adha at the Grand Mosque in Bamako. Security forces acted swiftly to ensure the safety of the Interim President by apprehending the assailant. Goïta was sworn into office last month but faced backlash due to his holding of two positions over the last nine months.
- Freeman Mbowe and ten other members from Tanzania’s main opposition party Chadema were arrested last Wednesday (July 21). Chadema demanded that the police reveal Mbowe’s whereabouts and justify the arrests but to no avail. With President Samia Suluhu Hassan in office since March, many hoped for a change in the autocratic rule that was imposed by her predecessor. However, the recent arrests seem to undermine such hope for change.
- MPs of the Sierra Leone parliament agreed to abolish the death penalty last Saturday (July 24). In Sierra Leone, criminals with death sentences have not been executed since 1998. According to the AFP news agency, the death penalty will be replaced by life imprisonment. If president Julius Maada Bio approves of the change, Sierra Leone will emerge as the 23rd African country to abolish the death penalty.
- Former President Jacob Zuma’s arms deal corruption trial was adjourned by a South African court last Tuesday (July 20). The trial is set to happen on August 10 instead, after Zuma applied for a postponement to appear in person instead of virtually during the trial. Zuma allegedly received a weapons deal over a billion dollars in the late 1990s but pleaded not guilty to several charges regarding corruption and fraud. He evaded prosecution during that time by victimising himself against a “politically motivated witch-hunt”. He was eventually jailed earlier this month, instigating violent protests from his support base.