Greta Thunberg leads a 'Fridays for Future' demonstration in Milan, Italy. | Photo Credit: Antonio Calanni/AP Photo

Weekly Recap: Sep 27 to Oct 3

Oct 4: Brazil approves construction of power line through the Amazon reserve despite concerns, Former French military police officer admits to being a notorious serial killer in suicide note, Greta Thunberg led hundreds of young people to march along Milan to demand for swifter climate action.

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North America:

  • Tens of thousands of women marched across cities in the United States (US) last Saturday (Oct 2) to protest increasing restrictions on abortion. The protests started after Texas put forth a law banning abortion after six weeks of pregnancy. There were a total of 660 demonstrations across the country, including around the Supreme Court in Washington, DC. 
  • The US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi delayed President Joe Biden’s US$1 trillion (SGD$ 1.36 trillion) infrastructure bill last Thursday (Sept 30). The party had struggled to bridge differences between two key centrist Democratic senators and a faction of progressive House members. 
  • US President Joe Biden signed a stopgap bill last Thursday (Sept 30) ahead of a midnight deadline to prevent the US government from shutting down due to the lack of funding. The funding bill also includes disaster relief for Afghanistan evacuees. 
  • The US congressional committee investigating the insurrection in January at the US Capitol building has issued subpoenas last Wednesday (Sept 29) to 11 individuals who organising Trump’s rally. The outcome of the inquiry depends largely on how various individuals and entities coordinated their activities leading up to the event at the Capitol building on Jan 6. Law enforcement authorities have arrested more than 600 people across the country related to the breach of the Capitol. 
  • American online video sharing and social media platform, YouTube, announced last Wednesday (Sept 29) that they will block all anti-vaccine content. This moves beyond its ban on false information about COVID-19 vaccines. YouTube will also remove false claims about routine immunisations for diseases such as measles, Hepatitis B and influenza. 
  • A spokesperson from the US State Department mentioned last Wednesday (Sept 29) that the US has no plans to normalise nor upgrade diplomatic relations with the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. The US also does not encourage others to do so due to the atrocities inflicted by the Assad regime on the Syrian people. 
  • On the eve of Canada’s first-ever National Day for Truth and Reconciliation (Sept 29), a Canadian federal court upheld a human rights tribunal decision for Ottawa to compensate Indigenous children and their families. Many of them had been deprived of family services due to their Indigenous status, thus pushing their children into foster care. Even though Indigenous children only made up 7.7 per cent of the country’s total population, they made up more than 52 per cent in foster care. 
  • The US government declared 23 types of birds, fish and other species last Wednesday (Sept 29) to be extinct. This comes after government scientists have exhausted extensive efforts to find them. All of them were thought to have a slim chance of survival after being added to the endangered species list at the beginning of the 1960s. Climate scientists warn that climate change could cause more endangered animals to disappear.
  • The US House of Representatives passed a bill last Tuesday (Sept 28) that could sanction foreign actors supporting rival factions in Libya. This move came a week after Libya’s eastern-based parliament passed a no confidence vote in the country’s unity government. The vote was a hindrance to the United Nations’ peace efforts as well as the country’s upcoming elections. The US legislation would sanction foreign actors backing Libyan forces loyal to either Tobruk or Tripoli. 
  • Nearly 600 US-based employees of United Airlines faced termination last Tuesday (Oct 28) after failing to comply with the company’s vaccination policy. United Airlines was the first US carrier to require COVID-19 vaccinations for all domestic employees. Despite being a difficult decision, the Chief Executive explained that the team’s safety is the company’s first priority. Those who wish to save their jobs can still get vaccinated before the formal termination meeting. More than 99 per cent of US-based employees have been vaccinated against COVID-19, apart from those who have sought an exemption. 
  • The top US general and Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley told Congress last Tuesday (Oct 28) that he was not trying to undermine former President Donald Trump by placing calls to his Chinese counterpart. He simply made the calls to General Li Zuocheng to assure China that the US was not going to suddenly go to war with them. 
  • A gunman responsible for the killings of five people in the 2018 mass shooting at the Capital Gazette newspaper in Annapolis, Maryland, was sentenced to more than five life sentences without the possibility of parole on Tuesday (Oct 28). Prosecutors had accused Ramos of planning to kill as many people as possible, as he was unhappy with their story about the harassment conviction he received in 2011. 
  • The man, Robert Aaron Long, who fatally shot four people at a massage business outside Atlanta, Georgia, has pleaded not guilty to shooting four others on the same day at two spas within the city last Tuesday (Oct 28). Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis is seeking the death penalty, as well as sentencing enhancement under Georgia’s new hate crime law. She believed that Long’s attacks were largely racially motivated, as his victims were all of Asian descent. 

South America:

  • The influx of thousands of mostly Haitian migrants seeking transport northward towards the United States is pushing local permanent residents in the Colombian beach town of Necocli out of their houses. Residents said that landlords favour migrants who are able to pay in dollars, especially since the Colombian peso faced an 11 per cent depreciation in 2021. The migrants are waiting for boat transport toward the jungles of Darien Gap in Panama, where smugglers guide groups northward on foot. 
  • Thousands of women demonstrated in several Latin American cities last Tuesday (Sept 28) to honour the global day of action for access to safe and legal abortions. The region only has a handful of countries that fully permitted safe and legal abortions. Every year, thousands of women in Latin America die from unsafe abortions amidst the increase of teenage pregnancies and sexual violence. Several Latin American nations still ban abortion outright. 
  • Brazil granted a permit for a 715 km power line in Brazil’s Amazon region last Wednesday (Sept 29). The permit was approved despite indigenous concerns about it going through the indigenous reserve. Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro said that it was a big day for the state of Roraima, in which the power line will link to the rest of the Brazilian electric grid. Roraima previously received power from Venezuela till political instability cut off the arrangement. Environmental and indigenous concerns had long held up the project but construction could move ahead and would take about three years.
  • The Group of Seven, a forum consisting of the richest democracies in the world, announced that Latin America will be part of the international infrastructure investment initiative, Build Back Better World (B3W). The program is focused on areas including climate, health, digital technology and gender equality. To prepare a counter to Chinese President Xi Jinping’s multi-trillion dollar Belt and Road Initiative, US officials toured Latin America last week to scout infrastructure projects.
  • Hundreds of Brazilian demonstrators took to the streets in several state capitals, and more than 200 cities across the country last Saturday (Oct 2) to protest against the federal government and call for the impeachment of President Jair Bolsonaro. Demonstrators criticised Bolsonaro and his handling of the COVID-10 pandemic and protested inflation and high fuel prices. The protests were a response to a rally of Bolsonaro supporters on Sept 7. 

Asia Pacific:

  • China celebrated the founding of the People’s Republic of China, its national day last Friday (Oct 1), with the largest mass air incursion ever of 38 Chinese aircraft into Taiwan’s airspace, and another 20 Chinese air force planes on Saturday (Oct 2). Despite China stepping up its military and political pressure to coerce Taiwan to accept Chinese sovereignty, Taiwan has been resistant, asserting its independence and stating its plan to defend its freedom and democracy. 
  • North Korean state news agency reported last Thursday (Sept 30), that leader Kim Jong Un is willing to restore severed inter-Korean hotlines in October. However, he accused the United States of proposing talks without changing its “hostile policy” of pursuing military threats while offering talks, and the UN’s double standards over missile tests. South Korea’s Unification Ministry welcomed Kim’s offer to restore hotlines, but did not comment on his other remarks. US President Joe Biden’s administration has said it reached out to Pyongyang to break an impasse over denuclearization talks.
  • Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani spoke at a news conference in Doha with European Union Foreign Policy Chief Josep Borrell, last Thursday (Sept 30), urging “friendly” states not to isolate Afghanistan after the takeover by the Taliban. States have been choosing to watch the situation in Afghanistan before proceeding. The ousted Afghan government and activist groups called on the main UN Human Rights Body to investigate reports of target killings and restrictions on women and free speech last Monday (Sept 27). 
  • Former Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida won the race to lead Japan’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and became the next prime minister, last Wednesday (Sept 29). Kishia won with 257 votes against vaccine minister Taro Kono with 170 votes. 
  • The World Bank reported that East Asia and Pacific region’s economic growth has slowed down due to the spread and persistence of the COVID-19 Delta variant. This is likely to undermine the region’s recovery and increase inequality in the region. The economies of several Pacific Island countries and Myanmar have been hit the hardest, with the former anticipated to shrink 2.9 per cent and the latter to contract by 18 per cent. Accelerated vaccination and testing to control COVID-19 infects could revive economic activity as early as the first half of 2022. 
  • The ousted Afghanistan government’s ambassador to the UN, Ghulam Isaczai was due to address the annual UN General Assembly last Monday (Sept 27), but withdrew his name. Despite the Taliban making competing claims for the country’s UN seat, no decision will be made till the UN accreditation committee meets in October or November. Isaczai decided not to speak “to preserve the national interests, preserve the seat of Afghanistan in the United Nations and to continue long-term cooperation with the United Nations and Security Council on main issues”, but will continue his usual activities at the world body.
  • Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte announced his retirement from politics last Saturday (Oct 2). It was received as a surprise move that fuelled speculation he was moving out of the way for his daughter, Sara Duterte-Carpio to attempt a presidential run. Duterte-Carpio is currently mayor of Davao and previously announced she will not run for national office in 2022. She also filed to contest the role of mayor again on the same day Duterte made his announcement. However, it is still unclear if Duterte-Carpio will run for the presidency. Duterte had been expected to run for vice president, a plan most Filipinos oppose as it would violate the one-term limit for the president to stop power from being abused in the constitution. 
  • At least two people were killed last Sunday (Oct 3) after an explosion occurred outside a mosque in the Afghan capital, Kabul, where a memorial service was being held for the mother of Taliban spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid. The blast also wounded another three civilians, who were rushed towards Kabul’s Emergency Hospital in the Shahr-e-Naw area. No group has stepped up to take responsibility for the attack yet. 

Europe:

  • Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabov said last Friday (Oct 1) that the Kremlin was uneasy over the trilateral agreement for the Indo-Pacific region – the Australia-United Kingdom-United States (AUKUS) defence deal. Russia is apparently concerned that the partnership would allow Australia to obtain nuclear-powered submarines. 
  • Georgia’s former President Mikheil Saakashvili was arrested last Friday (Oct 1) after returning to the country following eight years in exile. He had attempted to garner more supporters before the country’s municipal elections, which are critical to the country’s political makeup. 
  • A fire that broke out at a hospital in Romania killed seven people last Friday (Oct 1). The recent incident marked the third deadly occurrence at healthcare facilities in the country in less than a year. Patients could be seen jumping from the hospital’s lower level in video footage. Firefighters were also scrambling to carry people out. The cause of the fire is still undergoing investigations. 
  • A former French military police officer confessed in a suicide note to being a notorious serial killer nicknamed Le Grêlé, someone that the police have been searching for for years. Francois Verove was found dead last Wednesday (Sept 29) in the southern town of Le Grau-du-Roi, on France’s Mediterranean coast. His DNA has since been matched to evidence found at several crime scenes, with further tests being carried out. Le Grêlé was blamed for four murders and a series of rapes from 1986 that have been unsolved till now. Contents of the letter have yet to be confirmed by French authorities.
  • A former Nazi camp secretary was caught last Thursday (Sept 30) after fleeing her house in an attempt to skip her trial in Germany on more than 11,000 counts of accessory to murder. She had apparently helped the Nazi’s Stutthof camp function during World War 2, more than 75 years ago. Since the defendant was absent, the court delayed the reading of the indictment till Oct 19. 
  • Serbia and Kosovo have agreed to end their stand-off at their shared border last Thursday (Sept 30). This came after two days of intense negotiations and an agreement on de-escalation. The two countries initially had a dispute over vehicle licence plates. Both countries have agreed to place special stickers on their car licence plates to remove national symbols and allow the free movement of citizens. However, the measure is temporary and will only remain in place until a permanent solution is found. 
  • A digital investigation by Amnesty International published last Thursday (Sept 30) reported that Poland illegally pushed back a group of Afghan asylum seekers who had camped out on its border with Belarus in late August. According to Amnesty International, this could be used as an evidence of unlawful push back
  • The UK police officer, Wayne Couzens, who kidnapped, raped and murdered Sarah Everard was sentenced to life imprisonment without parole last Thursday (Sept 30). Couzens had abducted Everach on March 3 while walking home from a friend’s house in south London. He had accused her of breaking COVID-19 lockdown rules before arresting and driving her far from London. Couzens then burned her body after raping and killing her. The victim’s remains were found about 60 miles southeast of London, a week after going missing. 
  • Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy was sentenced last Thursday (Sept 30) to one year in jail after the Paris court found him guilty of illegal campaign financing of his failed 2012 re-election bid. He was accused of spending almost twice the maximum legal amount of US$26 million on a re-election bid, which was partly used to fund extravagant campaign rallies and hiring public relations agency, Bygmalion, to mask the real costs of the events. 
  • Three more UK energy companies, Igloo Energy Supply Ltd., Enstroga Ltd., and Symbio Energy Ltd., collapsed last Wednesday (Oct 29), adding to ten other utilities that have fallen since August. The fall of the companies have brought more than 1.7 million customers to lose their supplier, adding pressure on the government to step in. However, their customers will be allocated to another supplier by energy regulator Ofgem. 
  • The Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccination was suspended in Slovenia last Wednesday (Oct 29) after the death of a 20-year-old woman. Experts will be examining if the vaccine directly caused the woman’s stroke, which led to her death. 
  • Lava from Canaries’ volcano reached the Atlantic Ocean last Tuesday (Sept 28), nine days after erupting. The Canary Islands’ emergency service have since urged those outdoors to immediately find a shelter to take refuge. Since its eruption, the lava from Cumbre Vieja has devoured everything in its path, including nearly 600 houses and 21 km (13 miles) of road. No deaths or serious injuries have been reported so far after more than 6,000 people were evacuated. 
  • An explosion last Tuesday (Sept 28) in an apartment building in Gothenburg, Sweden, has been suspected by the police as foul play. The explosion resulted in multiple fires, leaving 20 injured and hundreds to evacuate. The blast comes amid a rise in violence between organised criminal gangs in the country. Though investigations are still ongoing, the police will not rule out that the fire was an act of criminal activity. 
  • A man in London was charged last Monday (Sept 27) after murdering a female primary school teacher, Sabina Nessa. Koci Selamaj was working as a food delivery driver when he killed the teacher who was walking through a local park to a bar to meet her friend. Nessa’s death has since fuelled concerns that women are not safe on the streets of the UK’s capital. 
  • Hundreds of young people led by Swedish activist Greta Thunberg marched along the streets of Milan, Italy, last Friday (Oct 1). The rally took place weeks before the crucial United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) to demand for swift climate action. Thunberg had criticised climate ministers last Tuesday (Sept 28) for pretending to have the solutions to the climate crisis and are taking sufficient action. She accused them of making empty promises, and hopes to see more change at the COP26 in Glasgow, Scotland, to be held on Oct 31. Thunberg had also met Italy’s Prime Minister and the current president of the G20, Mario Draghi, as a final push to get world leaders to make commitments before the climate summit.

Middle East:

  • Turkey furthers cooperation with Russia on defence industry projects including fighter jets and submarines, despite the United States’ warning of more sanctions. Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan mentioned the possible construction of two more nuclear power plants and platforms for space rocket launches with Russia. During the talks in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, Erdogan said Turkey would not back down from more possible US sanctions. 
  • Iran started military exercises near its border with Azerbaijan last Friday (Oct 1), amidst rising tense relations. Iran has long criticised Azerbaijan’s military ties with Israel and does not tolerate Israeli presence at their borders, reportedly stated  “Zionist regime’s activity against its national security and will take whatever action is necessary”. Tehran has also been wary of nationalists in Turkey and Azerbaijan encouraging secessionist tendencies among its Azeri minority. 
  • Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid met Bahraini King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa and Bahrain Crown Prince and Prime Minister Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa last Thursday, (Sept 30). It was the highest-level visit since the countries established ties last year in the Abraham Accords. The visit included a tour of a US naval headquarters to signal common interest against Iran. The visit sparked small protests in Bahrain, and criticisms from the Islamist Hamas group. 
  • Iranian Vice President and Head of the country’s atomic energy organization, Mohammad Eslami, arrived in Moscow last Tuesday (Sept 28). He met the chief executive of Russian state nuclear firm, Rosatom, to discuss cooperation between the two countries in the nuclear power sector. Iran also rejected a call from the US to grant UN inspectors access to a nuclear site where one of the four international Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) cameras was destroyed and removed along with the footage in June 2021. 
  • Expo 2020 Dubai, the first world fair to be held in the Middle East, opened last Thursday (Sept 28). The main message of Expo 2020 Dubai is about “Connecting Minds and Creating the Future”,  the power of global collaboration for a more sustainable future, using the exhibition of culture, technology and architecture. Dubai hopes the Expo demonstrates ingenuity and is a palace where global challenges such as climate change, conflict and economic growth can be addressed.
  • Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett gave his first speech to the United Nations General Assembly last Monday (Sept 27). He spoke of Iran’s alleged desire to dominate the Middle East under a “nuclear umbrella” and urged for a more concerted international effort to halt Iran’s nuclear activities, which Iran denied and rejected. However, Bennett’s speech also received backlash for not addressing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and was accused by the Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki for not being a partner for for the Palestinians in the peace and negotiation process.

Africa:

  • The UN peacekeeping mission in Mali, MINUSMA, informed last Saturday (Oct 2) about a peacekeeper who passed away after being hit by an improvised explosive device near Tessalit, close to the Algerian border. Four others were also seriously injured by the attack. Nevertheless, the head of MINUSMA, El-Ghassim Wane, mentioned that the attack will only strengthen MINUSMA’s determination to support Mali and its people to bring peace and stability to the country. The UN’s peacekeeping mission in Mali remains one of the deadliest as it has recorded about 255 deaths since 2013.
  • Guinea coup leader, Mamady Doumbouya, was sworn in as interim president last Friday (Oct 1) after President Alpha Conde was overthrown in September. Colonel Mamady promised to respect the country’s international commitments while transitioning to civilian rule. His administration’s mission is to draft a new constitution, fight corruption, reform the electoral system, and organise free, credible, and transparent elections. 
  • Mauritius opened its borders to international travellers last Friday (Oct 1) after months of lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It hopes that by doing so, the tourism industry will bounce back after being badly hit. The Deputy Prime Minister and Tourism Minister Steven Obeegadoo spoke in a news conference last Thursday (Sept 30) that the reopening was inevitable as 100,000 families had to depend on tourism to live. Additionally, 68 per cent of the 1.3 million population had already been fully vaccinated while 89 per cent had received at least one dose, which is one of the highest rates in the world. 
  • Mali received four helicopters, weapons and ammunition from Russia last Thursday (Sept 30) as per their contract agreed last December. According to Interim Defence Minister Sardio Camara, the weapons aim to support its armed forces in their battle with fighters linked to ISIL (ISIS) and al-Qaeda. 
  • Malawi’s former deputy speaker shot himself dead inside the parliament in the capital last Thursday (Sept 30). Clement Chiwaya had gone to the building to discuss vehicle benefits entitled to him when he left the office two years back. 
  • Local officials in northern Nigeria mentioned last Thursday (Sept 30) that at least 32 people have been killed after armed groups attacked remote communities in two states.  The assailants had attacked Muya local government area last Tuesday (Sept 27), killing 14 people and abducting seven women. They invaded another community on Wednesday (Sept 29) by setting their houses ablaze and watching the fire burn the residents. Those who tried to escape were caught and slaughtered. The group then went to two more communities, killing two people on the way before killing 16 more residents. Additionally, 24 people in Niger and Sokoto states were kidnapped by the marauding gunmen operating across the northwest and central parts of Nigeria. The same group had been responsible for abducting hundreds of school children and travellers for ransom.
  • Ethiopia’s government has ordered the expulsion of seven senior UN officials last Thursday (Sept 30) after accusing them of meddling in their internal affairs. The government was upset as humanitarian workers from UNICEF and UNOCHA have been warning about limited access to the embattled Tigray region. Those who have been expelled were given 72 hours to leave the country. 
  • Dozens of Shia Muslim followers of an outlawed group at a religious procession in Nigeria were arrested last Tuesday (Sept 28). The police had intervened to stop members of the banned Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN), and arrested 57 people after they attacked the police with petrol bombs and stones. A spokesperson for the police had also denied allegations claiming that the police had caused the deaths of any members. 
  • An independent investigation commissioned by the World Health Organisation (WHO) found out that there were allegedly more than 80 cases of sexual abuse during the global health agency’s response to an Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), including allegations involving 20 staff members. The 35-page report was released last Tuesday (Sept 28), exposing the most wide scale sexual wrongdoing linked to the UN. The investigators were able to obtain the identity of 83 alleged perpetrators, both Congolese nationals and foreigners, who were WHO employees during the Ebola response.
  • South Sudan dismissed the UN’s report, which accused the country’s governing elite of looting tens of millions of dollars from public coffers. The minister of cabinet affairs, Martin Elia Lomuro dismissed the report as part of “an international campaign… against [South Sudan’s] government”. Minister Lomuro also mentioned that only the people can hold the government accountable, and not external parties. 
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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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